27.3 cm x 35 cm (10 3/4 in. x 13 3/4 in.)
Jusepe de Ribera
(Játiva, Spain, 1591 - 1652, Naples, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Etching and engraving
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The 1989 Friends of the Archer M. Huntington Art Gallery Purchase
Jusepe de Ribera was the most extraordinary realist of the Italian Baroque. His paintings are Caravaggesque in essence but given to unusual subjects, pungent interpretations, and an irregular stylization that owes something to his Spanish origins. His human content is so broad and unflinching that it approaches Rembrandt’s. And his stunningly pure palette and singularly textured brushwork equal the painterliness of Italian virtuosi like Dominico Fetti and Bernardo Strozzi.
Etching was an occasional but very concentrated activity for Ribera. His earliest plates, made upon his arrival in Naples in 1616, are swift and energetic sketches of a fairly conventional sort. His major plates, all of the 1620s, rephrase subjects of paintings with exquisitely sensitive drawing, richly varied textures, and the same terribly moving expression. Drunken Silenus elaborates upon a painting of 1626 (Capodimonte, Naples). Its subject is the inebriation of the son of Pan, a Roman agricultural divinity who acted as guardian of the young Bacchus. A frequent pretext for showing the consequences of abandoning reason, the myth is pushed here toward a burlesque of bulging bellies and laughing asses. The etched version is his largest plate, the most similar to a painting, and the most carefully developed. Especially in this exceptionally early impression, Ribera is revealed as an absolute master of the technique.
The collection includes thirteen etchings by Ribera, most of his printed oeuvre.