Colnaghi Foundation Journal 04 - Page 83

Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style
A key work for Ribera’s Roman period is Nicola
Spinosa, Ribera. La obra completa (Madrid: Fundación
Apoyo Arte Hispánico, 2008); Nicola Spinosa, José
de Ribera, bajo el signo de Caravaggio (Salamanca: Caja
Duero, 2005); Gianni Papi, Ribera a Roma (Soncino:
Edizione dei Sonzino, 2007).
2. Analyses carried out with electron microscope
scanning (SEM-EDX) on a group of five works
from the Roman period show the composition of
the priming to contain predominantly ochre earths,
calcite and lead white with smaller amounts of carbon
black, red earth, pyrite, silica, micas and dolomite.
In the Susanna and the Elders, an additional top layer
can be seen which is darker and has the same
components plus manganese black. The binding agent
has been identified through gas chromatography
with a detector of mass spectrometry (GC-MS) as
invariably being linseed oil. Curiously enough, this
is a type of mixture which is very similar to that
used in Seville during the seventeenth century and
which contemporary treatises called tierra de Sevilla, or
‘Seville earth’. See Adelina Illán, Rafael Romero, and
Ana Sáenz de Tejada, Características de las preparaciones
sevillanas en pintura de caballete entre 1600 y 1700:
implicaciones en el campo de la restauración y de la historia
del arte (Barcelona: II Congreso GEIIC, 2005), pp.
3. Javier Bacariza Domínguez et al., Caravaggismo
y clasicismo en la pintura italiana del Museo ThyssenBornemisza. Un estudio técnico e histórico (Madrid:
Rayxart, 2014).
4. Spinosa, La obra completa, no. A27, p. 318.
5. Rafael Romero and Adelina Illán, El dibujo subyacente
entre 1500 y 1700: singularidades e incógnitas a la luz de
nuevos hallazgos (Valladolid: Simposium Universidad de
Valladolid, forthcoming).
6. Larry Keith, “Caravaggio´s painting technique: a brief
survey based on paintings in the National Gallery,”
in Caravaggio’s Painting Technique, eds. Marco Ciatti
and Giovanni Brunetto Brunetti (Rome: Kermes
Quaderni, 2012), pp. 23-30; Roberto Belluci and
Cecilia Frosinini, “New evaluations on Caravaggio´s
methods of underdrawing: art historical and scientific
challenges,” in Ciatti and Brunetti, Caravaggio’s Painting
Technique, pp. 51-58; Larry Keith, “Three paintings
by Caravaggio,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin 19
(1998): pp. 37-51
7. Javier Portús, “Teatro de emociones. La resurrección
de Lázaro o Ribera como pintor científico, in El joven
Ribera, eds. José Milicua and Javier Portús, exh. cat.
(Madrid: Museo del Prado, 2011), pp. 61-67.
8. Spinosa, La obra completa, no. A64, p. 338.
9. Nicola Spinosa, “La revolución de Ribera. Los últimos
descubrimientos,” Ars Magazine 1 (2008): p. 109.
10. Lapis lazuli does not seem to have been a pigment
that Ribera commonly used in works that can be
placed in the Roman period. He normally chose
azurite, which has a greener tone. This cannot be
explained by the unique quality or high cost of lapis
lazuli, as would be the case in Spain, since in Italy it
had been frequently employed since the Middle Ages
and, although also considered the best available blue,
was reasonably priced.
Ashok Roy, “Caravaggio´s influence in the North,”
in Ciatti and Brunetti, Caravaggio’s Painting Technique,
pp. 85-94.
For further discussion, see Lourdes Núñez Casares,
Lourdes Martín García, and Gabriel Ferreras
Romero, “Intervención sobre el Calvario de José de
Ribera (Colegiata de Osuna),” PH59 Boletín del Instituto
Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico 59 (2006): pp. 18-39.
The priming mixtures Ribera used in Naples are
rather browner than the Roman ones and clearly have
a reddish shade, due to the greater presence of red
earth in their composition which, as well as the usual
components, includes calcite, silica, ochres, carbon
black, lead white, dolomite, and pyrite. In the Pietà in
the Museo Thyssen, minium has also been identified.
This was probably added as a siccative. See Maria
Dolores Gayo, Andrés Sánchez, and María J.Gómez,
“Estudio de materiales,” in Ribera, La Piedad, exh. cat.
(Madrid: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2003), pp. 73-79.
Angel Balao González, “La restauración de la pintura
de Jusepe de Ribera en el Patrimonio Nacional,”
Reales Sitios 114 (1992): pp. 45-57; Gayo, Sanchez,
Gomez, “Estudio de materiales.”
A detailed study of all these works examined in the
laboratory of Icono I&R, Madrid, will be included
in Rafael Romero and Adelina Illán, José de Ribera
(1591-1652). Técnica Pictórica. (Madrid: Icono I&R,
Catalogue entry by Gianni Papi.
Spinosa, L’obra completa, no. A74, p. 345.
Ibid., no. A3, p. 304.
Rafael Romero and Adelina Illán, “Summary of
technique, Head of Silenus (fragment of The Visit
of Bacchus to Icarus),” in Spanish Old Master Paintings
1500-1700 (Buenos Aires: Jaime Eguiguren Arts &
Antiques, 2018), pp. 130-134.
San Antonio Abad. Catalogue entry by José Gómez
Spinosa, L’obra completa, no. A278, p. 441.
This can be clearly seen in the philosopher Crates
(123.2 x 97.5 cm, Private Collection).
Ángel Balao González, “La restauración de la pintura
de Jusepe de Ribera” in Gayo, Sánchez, Gómez,
“Estudio de materiales.”
A full study of the materials, pigments, and colourings
used by Ribera in his works will be included in the
forthcoming Romero and Illán, José de Ribera.
Spinosa, L’obra completa, no. C36, p. 510. This was
done on a panel of hardwood (unidentified species)
which was repaired in the nineteenth century. X-ray
images do not show whether there could have been
any original system for reinforcing the panel. The
priming is gypsum (calcium sulphate dihydrate),
bound with animal glue, on top of a thin priming
layer of reddish ochre.
26. Spinosa, L’obra completa, no. A336, p. 466.
27. Spinosa, L’obra completa, no. C33, p. 509.
28. Romero and Illán, “Summary of technique, José de
Ribera. Ecce Homo,” in Spanish Old Master Paintings, pp.
106-111; Romero e Illán, El dibujo subyacente entre 1500
y 1700.
29. Pablo Jimémez Díaz, Esplendor recuperado. Proyecto de
investigación y restauración de los retablos del Nazareno y La
Trinidad de la Catedral de Granada (Granada: IPCECabildo Catedral de Granada, 2009).
30. Smalt used in the base colour demonstrates
considerable fading and shows up under the
microscope as almost transparent glassy particles. In
this layer, in addition to smalt and lead white, traces of
yellow earth and calcite appear.
31. Samples from these areas do not show any fading
in the upper paint layers. We believe that it was
Ribera’s intention to leave the ochre priming visible
in many areas.
32. A micro-sample from Saint Joseph’s tunic shows a
very faded paint layer made of abundant organic red
lake, degraded cobalt smalt, and organic black.
Painting techniques in the work of Jusepe de Ribera: a study based on development of the artist’s style


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