Artist
Jusepe de Ribera
Spanish painter

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Jusepe de Ribera
Spanish painter
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Birth Date

January 12, 1591

Death Date

September 02, 1652

soesterling's picture

Contributor

The biographical details of Jusepe De Ribera's life are as uncertain as his name.

Jusepe De Ribera, aka “Jose de Ribera”, aka “Giusseppe Ribera”, aka “Lo Spagnoletto” (The Little Spaniard) was either the son of a shoemaker or the son of a Spanish soldier depending on which story you read. Personally I like the shoemaker tale because it allows an event later in his life to be much more colorful (we’ll get to that soon).

We know definitively that Ribera was born in Spain in 1591 and began studying painting at an early age. From there we must speculate. Supposedly Ribera studied under famed local Valencian artist Francisco Ribalta. It is here that his father’s vocation becomes significant. According to one biography Ribera wanted to move to Italy to further his studies and also to be closer to his father who was stationed there. Boring. The juicier version suggests that his shoemaking father had nothing to do with his motive for moving and instead Ribera was run out of town for having a steamy affair with Ribalta’s daughter. Sexy.

Once in Italy Ribera’s life becomes no more verifiable. One legend claims that early in his career a rich cardinal offered to be his patron but in true starving artist fashion Ribera said he couldn’t produce art in the lap of luxury and refused the proposal. Apparently this was a short lived feeling because not long after moving to Rome he left for Naples where he would become extremely successful and decadent. The move was sparked by a supposed desire to meet his painting idol Caravaggio. Unfortunately, Caravaggio had been dead for six years leading me to believe the other theory in which Ribera moved in a desperate attempt to avoid debt collectors. I bet he regretted not accepting that cardinal’s offer when the repo men came knocking.

While we know that Ribera’s success in Naples and as a Baroque legend is definitely attributed to his talent for painting grotesque nudes in sad situations (Goya cites him as a major influence) his shady business practices may have also played a part. He was head of an art gang called “The Cabal of Naples” in which he led two other artists in mafia style shenanigans in order to gain a monopoly on commissions in the province. One of these artists, Belisario Corenzio killed a poor assistant in a failed attempt to murder artist Guido Reni who had dared accept the fresco commission Corenzio wanted. Another mark for the gang was painter Domenichino who after being invited to Naples on commission almost immediately received death threats. He became so scared that he left Naples before fulfilling his contract. As a result his wife and daughter were arrested, forcing him to return to complete the job. After accepting a second commission in the region he grew increasingly paranoid. He would go to work to find things erased or defaced and eventually began refusing meals because he thought the Cabal would poison him. Maybe he was right; he died a year into his contract of a mysterious and sudden illness.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Jusepe de Ribera

Jusepe de Ribera (baptized February 17, 1591; died September 2, 1652) was a Spanish Tenebrist painter and printmaker, also known as José de Ribera and Josep de Ribera. He also was called Lo Spagnoletto ("the Little Spaniard") by his contemporaries and early writers. Ribera was a leading painter of the Spanish school, although his mature work was all done in Italy.

Early life

Ribera was born at Xàtiva, near Valencia, Spain, the second son of Simón Ribera and his first wife Margarita Cucó.He was baptized on February 17, 1591. His father was a shoemaker, perhaps on a large scale. His parents intended him for a literary or learned career, but he neglected these studies and is said to have apprenticed with the Spanish painter Francisco Ribalta in Valencia, although no proof of this connection exists. Longing to study art in Italy, he made his way to Rome via Parma, where he painted Saint Martin and the Beggar, now lost, for the church of San Prospero in 1611. According to one source, a cardinal noticed him drawing from the frescoes on a Roman palace facade, and housed him. Roman artists gave him the nickname "Lo Spagnoletto".

His early biographers generally rank him among the followers of Caravaggio. Very little documentation survives from his early years, with scholars speculating as to the precise time and route by which he came to Italy. Ribera started living in Rome no later than 1612, and is documented as having joined the Academy of Saint Luke by 1613. He lived for a time in the Via Margutta, and almost certainly associated with other Caravaggisti who flocked to Rome at that time, such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrick ter Brugghen, among other Utrecht painters active in Rome by 1615. In 1616, Ribera moved to Naples, in order to avoid his creditors (according to Giulio Mancini, who described him as living beyond his means despite a high income). In November, 1616, Ribera married Caterina Azzolino, the daughter of a Sicilian-born Neapolitan painter, Giovanni Bernardino Azzolino, whose connections in the Neapolitan art world helped to establish Ribera early on as a major figure, whose presence was to bear a lasting impact on the art of the city.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Jusepe de Ribera.