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Jusepe de Ribera

March 2, 2011



Drunken Silenus

Jusepe de Ribera 1626.

Oil on canvas.

National Museum of Capodimonte, Naples.

Drunken Silenus is Jusepe de Ribera’s take on Bacchus, a mythological motif in Caravaggio’s early work.  Ribera seems to have been influenced by Caravaggio in subject matter, color, naturalism, and space.

Ribera adopted Caravaggio’s rendering of flesh tones in this painting.  There are no hints of Caravaggio’s later painterly brushwork.  The color palette of this piece consists of earth tones, much like Caravaggio’s religious paintings.

Although mythological in subject matter, the figures in this scene have a gross realism about them.  Besides the un-human faces of a few, Ribera does not hold back in depicting the large belly of the drunken Silenus, his fatty face, and the tenuous muscles of the figures around him.

This scene occurs not in darkness, but in a shallow setting.  There is enough light to see a little into the receding background, but the action takes place in the first few picture planes.  These characteristics make this piece Caravaggesque, influenced by Caravaggio’s first two Roman periods.



Magdalena Ventura

Jusepe de Ribera 1631.

Oil on canvas.

Museo Fondación Duque de Lerma, Toledo.

Ribera’s interest in extreme naturalism went in a different direction than Caravaggio’s.  Ribera was interested in the oddities of humankind.  He viewed them as a natural wonder.  With unsurpassed skill, Ribera was able to transform the unusual nature of these human beings into pieces of Baroque art.

Magdalena Ventura is a portrait of a bearded lady, suckling her child, with her husband Felix.  The Duke of Alcala commissioned Ribera to paint this portrait.

Other oddities painted by Ribera include The Club Footed Boy (1642).

Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. “Ribera, Jusepe de.” Grove Art OnlineOxford Art Online. 2 Mar. 2011<;

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