After Cimabue, Artemisia and the Master of Vyšší Brod, Paris is continuing the recent spate of discoveries with this new Ribera unearthed by Bertrand de Cotton and Benoît Derouineau in a large house in western France.
José de Ribera (1591-1652), Un philosophe : l’heureux géomètre (A Philosopher: the Happy Surveyor), oil on canvas, 100 x 75.5 cm.
Estimate : €200,000/300,000
© STUDIO christian baraja
As soon as he saw the Daguerre auction house's discovery, Stéphane Pinta of Turquin expressed no doubts: "Ribera's Apostolados were conceived simply but effectively – and rapidly, too. According to Mancini, he could paint a Saint Jerome in only two days and a Judgment of Our Lord with ten figures in barely five. The artist's way of working directly from the model, with no preparatory drawings, gave his paintings a lively, spontaneous touch, accentuated by the natural light coming through an opening he made in the ceiling of his studio, so that it was unfiltered and gave relief to his models."
The generous touch of the most radical of the Caravaggisti is striking, to say the least. "The opposition of warm and cold tones makes the composition vigorous and vibrant," says Pinta. "Brushed in a nebulous light, soft shadows emphasise the strong contrasts obtained by applying a warm, firm colour, with blazing copper mahogany shades in thick material, on cool grey backgrounds. Take the wrinkles, for instance – sometimes harsh, because not very much paint is used – or the feather." Here, the pages of figures capture the light from the top left corner, reflecting it back to the viewer and imbuing the piece with the dynamic energy also found in the St Philip and St Paul of the Longhi collection.
In the introduction to his monograph on Ribera's period in Rome, Gianni Papi refers to the "decisive paintings in the Langres and Corsini museums" – Jesus Among the Doctors and The Denial of St Peter: two works in which the old man now for sale with Daguerre auction house appears. While there is no flattery in the way his large, protruding ears, prominent, slightly twisted nose and deeply etched wrinkles are painted, there is something disconcerting about his lively, intelligent gaze and strong hands. This was not the only time Ribera painted this type of subject: another of his models in the Palazzo Corsini painting, said to have been discovered by Guido Reni on the banks of the Tiber (Lo schiavo di Ripa Grande), features in at least four of his compositions as well as in works by Cecco del Caravaggio, Manfredi and Borgianni.
While Caravaggio is a market leader – this is absolutely undeniable – Ribera has somewhat taken revenge on those who had forgotten or misunderstood him, because in two decades, the work of Lo Spagnoletto has not only been reconsidered but positively put on a pedestal. For a start, in 2015, there was "Ribera in Rome: around the first Apostolado", presented by Guillaume Kazerouni and Guillaume Kientz at the Musée des Beaux-arts in both Rennes and Strasbourg. And at this very moment he is being celebrated at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which is staging the UK's first ever monographic exhibition on him: "Ribera: Art of Violence". Daguerre's sale on 27 March is sure to make waves and attract the interest of key museums.