This painting is dated by both Nicola Spinosa and Craig Felton to about 1640 on the basis of its close compositional and stylistic affinities with a canvas of the same subject, signed and dated 1640, in a private collection, Geneva.1
The paintings share a similar disposition of the figure, though with hands differently arranged: where here Saint Francis grasps his staff tightly with both hands, in the Geneva painting he holds a piece of paper in his right and rests his left gently on a staff. No other version of the present arrangement is known, while several copies of the Geneva composition exist, such as that in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachussetts.
We are grateful to Prof. Nicola Spinosa for endorsing the attribution to Ribera on the basis of photographs. With the benefit of better photographs and, subsequently first hand inspection, Prof. Spinosa has comprehensively dispelled any doubts expressed on the painting's attribution in his 2003 and 2008 monographs on the artist.
1. N. Spinosa, Ribera. La obra completa, Madrid 2008, p. 441, no. A278.