Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew
Inscribed in pen and brown ink at lower edge, Giusepe Ribera l'anno 1649
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1910
BARTHOLOMEW FLAYED ALIVE
One of Ribera's favorite subjects was St. Bartholomew, an apostle and missionary who was skinned alive for his Christian faith. The artist depicted Bartholomew's martyrdom in an earlier print, whose composition may have served as a model for this drawing. The distinctive arrangement of figures—from the knife sharpener at far right, to his counterpart binding Bartholomew's legs, to the standing executioner flaying his forearm—lends the drawing an instructional dimension, demonstrating, step by step, how to martyr a saint. The inscription below is not in Ribera's hand but may have been added by a later owner of the sheet.
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.