José de Ribera

José de Ribera
Játiva 1591–1652 Naples

Marsyas Bound to a Tree

ca. 1630s
Red chalk
9 15/16 x 7 9/16 inches (252 x 192 mm)

Purchased as the gift of Frederick R. Koch, 1976

Item description: 

Ribera was drawn to violent subjects—notably, the flaying of St. Bartholomew and his pagan counterpart, Marsyas, a satyr who challenged Apollo to a musical contest. As punishment for losing the competition and for his sin of pride, Marsyas was tied to a tree and skinned alive. This independent drawing depicts the bound satyr screaming, his skin still intact. Ribera relates body parts to tree parts: torso to trunk, limb to branch. In a variation on the theme, he portrays Marsyas with human, rather than goat, legs, thus connecting this mythological subject to his numerous drawings of bound figures.

About this exhibition: 

From the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, Spain witnessed the rise of the Catholic Church along with the flourishing of court artists who explored deeply spiritual visions. Concurrently, the nightmare of the Inquisition drove artists to probe the darker side of human nature through scenes of martyrdom and torture. Drawing played a central role in their conception of these diverse subjects—from Murillo's preparatory studies for painting commissions to Goya's private albums satirizing contemporary society. In addition to this rich tradition in Spain, Spanish artists also worked abroad, notably in Naples, which was a Spanish territory.

Visions and Nightmares marks the first exhibition of Spanish drawings at the Morgan, whose holdings in this area are small but significant. Showcasing over twenty sheets by Spanish artists spanning four centuries, this selection traces the shifting roles and attitudes toward the art of drawing in Spain.


This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition Visions and Nightmares: Four Centuries of Spanish Drawings, on view January 17 through May 11, 2014 and organized by Edward Payne, Moore Curatorial Fellow.

This exhibition is made possible by the A. Woodner Fund.