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Ribera: Art of Violence

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You may have heard about Spanish painters such as Goya, Velázquez or Dalí, but are you familiar with the work of Jusepe Ribera? If the answer is “yes, and I love it” or “no, but I would like to learn more about Spanish painting”, we have good news: for the first time ever, Ribera’s work can be seen in the United Kingdom in an exhibition organized by the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The exhibition, entitled Ribera: Art of Violence will be open until January 27, 2019.

José de Ribera was a seventeenth-century Spanish painter, draftsman and engraver. Born in Játiva, Valencia, Ribera developed his entire career in Italy, initially in Rome and later in Naples. For this reason, he is also known by his Italianized name Jusepe Ribera and by the nickname Lo Spagnoletto (“The Little Spaniard”) because of his short stature and because he often signed his works as Spanish, Valencian and Setabense (which is the name given to the inhabitants of Játiva).

Ribera, often considered the heir of Caravaggio, is one of the leading figures of Spanish Baroque art. His work is known throughout the world, and it inspired many baroque artists in Central Europe, including Salvator Rosa and Luca Giordano.

Lord Byron said of Ribera that he painted with the blood of the Saints, and indeed the work of the Spanish painter is characterized by his piercing representations of saints and sinners. Historically criticized for his depictions of human pain and suffering, which are often considered sadistic and violent, Ribera is known for the intensity of his brush strokes and the truculence of the themes that he addresses in his paintings.

Ribera: Art of Violence seeks to “explore the meaning of the artist’s paintings” and analyse for the first time the powerful images of pain that appear so often in Ribera’s work. The exhibition challenges the interpretation of Ribera as sadistic and violent, and reveals the complex artistic, religious and cultural dimensions of his paintings.

The Dulwich Picture Gallery presents 45 works, among which are some of the most spectacular and impressive paintings by the Spanish artist. Among the works on display is “Apollo and Marsyas” (1637), which you can see above these lines.

The exhibition is divided into five rooms: “Religious violence”, “The skin and the five senses”, “Crime and punishment”, “The tied figure” and “The mythological violence”. Each of the five spaces explores a different aspect of Ribera’s work. Along with eight monumental canvases by Lo Spagnoletto, visitors can also see sketches and other art samples, both by Ribera and other artists, which help to better understand the creative thinking of the Spanish painter and appreciate his mastery of composition, gesture and expression.

The short video of the exhibition that you will find below shows the intensity of José de Ribera’s stunning works – watch it and let me know what you think!


Interested? You can read more about the exhibition here.

Did you know? You can also read this article in Spanish! Click here for the Spanish version.

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