By this stage in his career Ribera had reached the peak of his success, both artistically and commercially. His production focused on bust-length figures of saints depicted in a manner which shows to what extent he had succeeded in nuancing the Caravaggism of his early career into a style that was very much his own. The present design must have found notable success for an unsigned and undated replica, which Spinosa lists as autograph, is in the Museo de Bellas Artes in Valencia.1 A copy after the work is also listed as being in Seville.
Born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, the future saint took the Carmelite habit in 1536 at the convent of the Incarnation in Avila. Crudely referred to as a mystic, she would more likely have described herself as leading a life of contemplation. Her spiritual visions and personal descriptions of the various stages in the development of the soul on its journey towards the Godhead, most notably in the Castillo Interior, cemented her place as one of Spain's most popular saints. Gian Lorenzo Bernini immortalised her in marble in his Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (see fig. 1) in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. She was canonized in 1622 and named a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
1. See Spinosa, 2008, under Literature, p. 463, cat. no. A331, reproduced.
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