THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON COLLECTION PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE BARBARA PIASECKA JOHNSON FOUNDATION
IRSA, Verlagsanstalt, Vienna, 30 April 1990, when acquired by the late owner.
C. Felton, 'Ribera's Hercules Resting Rediscovered', in Apollo, vol. 131, June 1990, pp. 374–81, reproduced p. 375 (as Ribera);
C. Felton, 'Out of the Shadows: Jusepe Ribera', in Apollo, vol. 136, September 1992, pp. 142 and 146, note 4 (as Ribera, datable 1625);
A. Pérez Sánchez, Jusepe de Ribera; 1591–1652, exhibition catalogue, Naples 1992, p. 184, cat. no. 143, reproduced in colour in reverse p. 186 (as Ribera; incorrect measurements given);
N. Spinosa and D. M. Pagano, I Profeti di San Martino, Naples 1992, p. 17, note 3 (as a copy after a lost original);
N. Spinosa, Ribera, L'opera completa, Naples 2003, p. 349, cat. no. B14 (as a copy after a lost original; incorrect measurements given);
N. Spinosa, Ribera, la obra completa, Madrid 2008, p. 519, cat. no. D.14 (with incorrect measurements and image, and as a copy after a lost original).
Soon after the painting's re-emergence it was both published and exhibited as a fully autograph work by Ribera, initially by Felton (see Literature). A related drawing formerly in the Chauchi collection in Rabat, Malta, and now in the Mdina Museum in the same city, confirms to what extent Ribera had thought about the subject (see fig. 1);3that there should be distinct changes in design between the drawing and the final painting is quite common in Ribera's œuvre. In both the painting and the drawing the massive figure is shown seated and accompanied by his club and lion skin, his brow furrowed after his exertions.
Since Felton's publications and the 1992 exhibition where the painting was presented with a full attribution to Ribera, it has been proposed by Professor Nicola Spinosa that it may in fact be a studio work after a lost original. While the overall quality is not homogenous, it seems unlikely that the workshop would have executed a painting of this size and quality without the master taking a close interest and making a significant contribution. For example, the quality of the head and torso are of greater impact than the hands, while the disposition of the legs is perhaps less convincing than one might expect from Ribera at this date, but the painting overall clearly exceeds the quality of a mere studio production. The most plausible scenario is that the Johnson picture is indeed the prototype of the composition, conceived with the Malta drawing in mind, but was executed by Ribera with studio help. It would thus follow that the painting in Castres, which is of considerably weaker quality, is a reproduction after the present work reproduced entirely by the studio.
1. On deposit at the Musée Goya in Castres from the Louvre; see N. Spinosa, Ribera, L'opera completa, Milan 1979, p. 127, cat. no. 229, reproduced, where listed as possibly by Francesco Fracanzano.
2. See Spinosa, 2008, under Literature, pp. 392–93, cat. nos. A164 and A165, both reproduced.
3. See J. Brown, Jusepe de Ribera, Prints and Drawings, Princeton 1973, p. 168, cat. no. 22, reproduced p. 200, plate 49.
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