Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 79

Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style
Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style
These supports increased opportunities for capturing
nuances in painting and rich brushwork. Ribera
might have varied his support depending on the type
of client or simply because he happened to prefer
one or the other at a given time. In an exceptionally
high-quality work like the Saint Paul in a private
collection (figs. 19 & 20),25 dated 1643 and in an
oval format, Ribera chose a panel of unidentified
hardwood, and for the splendid work Saint Januarius
Emerging Unharmed from the Furnace, painted in
1646 for the treasury chapel of the Cathedral of
San Gennaro in Naples, he used a huge copper
sheet.26 Another example of a work on copper is the
exceptionally-beautiful Hecate, now in Apsley House,
London, and probably painted in 1641.27
In 1633-1637 Ribera carried out an important
commission for the convent of las Agustinas in
Salamanca. The commission came from the Count
of Monterrey, Viceroy of Naples from 1631 to 1637.
From this point onwards – particularly from the 1640s
until his death in 1652 – Ribera’s style took a new
direction. As mentioned above, this change was in
part due to the arrival in Naples of new artists and
the development of new artistic sensibilities in both
Neapolitan and Italian painting in general. Ribera’s
style evolved to incorporate new chromatic ranges and
colour combinations with greater luminosity, a new
sense of plasticity, and more refined compositions.
In works from this late period, Ribera began to
replace the brown Neapolitan priming commonly
used in previous decades, with an earthy reddish one
with which he had only occasionally experimented
before. This added warmth to the paintings, an effect
enhanced by the thinness of the paint layers applied
on top (fig. 21). Ribera even left this lower layer
uncovered in many of his late works, employing half
tones and shadows. This can clearly be perceived
in the Ecce Homo, dated 1644, now in Buenos Aires
(fig. 22); here the artist plays with vibrant effects of
transparency in dark areas painted with bituminous
browns, such as the hair and beard.28
Fig 19 / Saint Paul, oil on
panel, 53 x 41 cm, Private
Fig 20 / X-ray image of
work in Fig. 19.
Ribera did, however, continue to use his more
customary priming on occasion: the familiar reddish
brown is evident in the previously mentioned Mary
Magdalene (1642) in Granada Cathedral.29
Fig 21 / Cross section from
Rest on the Flight into Egypt,
showing the reddish earthcoloured priming typical of
Ribera’s final years.
Fig 22 / Ecce Homo, oil on
canvas, 67 x 56 cm, Buenos
Aires, Jaime Eguiguren Arts
& Antiques.


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