Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Brush with Martyrdom

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Brush with Martyrdom

Article excerpt

He was a seventh century baroque master who, more than any other artist of his day, evoked the counter-Reformation spirit by combining the physical reality of his subjects with the underlying mysticism of their religious experience.

Jusepe de Ribera was born in Spain in 1591 and moved to Italy at a young age. One of his finest works, The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew, depicts the dramatic moment just before the saint was flayed--literally skinned alive. The painting is a powerful psychological study of the faith of the martyr and the admiration of his executioner.

In private hands for almost 200 years, The Martyrdom was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., through its 50th Anniversary Gift Committee. Since March 17, the painting has been on display at the Gallery as part of the exhibition Art for the Nations: Gifts in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art.

Measuring 41 by 41 inches, the oil canvas is the first Ribera to enter the National Gallery's collection. Diane De Grazie, curator of southern baroque painting, has called it "the most significant seventeenth century Spanish painting to enter the collection in 30 years."

In this painting, Ribera concentrates less on Bartholomew's physical suffering than on his mystical experience just before death. …

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