Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle

Aristotle

Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish, 1590-1652)

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Ribera's image of Aristotle is one of six imaginary portraits of ancient philosophers commissioned in 1636 by the prince of Liechtenstein. The artist's conception of Aristotle as an ordinary man wearing a scholar's skullcap and a ragged robe, a "beggar philosopher," is a type that enjoyed great popularity in the 17th century. Ribera's direct, naturalistic style and his dramatic use of light, both of which derive from Caravaggio, combine to create a powerful evocation of a philosopher deep in thought.

"In poverty and naked goes Philosophy," the masses bent on making money say."-Petrarch, Canzoniere, about 1373-74
Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Ribera's image of Aristotle is one of a series of six imaginary portraits of ancient philosophers commissioned in 1636 by the prince of Liechtenstein. Ribera's conception of Aristotle as an ordinary man wearing a scholar's skullcap and a ragged robe, a "beggar philosopher," is a type that enjoyed great popularity in the 17th century. The artist's direct, naturalistic style and his dramatic use of light, both of which derive from the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, combine to create a powerful evocation of a philosopher deep in thought.

Jusepe de Ribera, born in the Valencian town of Játiva in 1591, spent his entire career in Italy, principally in Naples, which was then governed by Spanish viceroys. He frequently asserted his Spanish nationality, as he does in this painting, by adding the word "español" to his signature. In 1618, the year Ribera received his first commission from the Spanish viceroy, the artist Ludovico Carracci wrote with admiration of the "young Spaniard working in the manner of Caravaggio." The bold Caravaggesque naturalism of Ribera's work is enhanced by his achievement of a more tactile sense of physical presence, readily seen in the thickly brushed lines and creases of his philosopher's worn face and coarse hands.

Naked and poor thou goest, Philosophy.
-Poet Petrarch, 1304-1374

Commissioned from Ribera in 1636 by Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein [1611-1684], Schloss Feldsberg (now in Czech Republic) via his agents Lorenzo Cambi and Simone Verzone;{1} By descent within the family of the princes of Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein; Sold to (Newhouse Galleries, New York, New York) in 1954;{2} Acquired by George Henry Alexander Clowes [1877-1958], Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1955; Clowes Fund Collection until 2000 (C10066); Acquired by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2000 (2000.345).

{1} In 1983 Eduardo Nappi, in his article ”Pittori del ‘600 a Napoli: Notizie inedited dai documenti dell’Archivio storico del Banco di Napoli,” in Ricerche sul ‘600 napoletano, Milan 1983, pp. 73-87, published information documenting Ribera’s commission which he had located in the archives of the Banco dello Spirito Santo, Naples. See also, Craig Felton, “Ribera’s ‘Philosophers’ for the Prince of Liechtenstein, The Burlington Magazine, vol.128, no. 1004 (November 1986): pp. 785-789 who, following Nappi, transcribes the archival notation as: Banco dello Spirito Santo, giornale del 1636, matr. 270, partita di ducati 100, estinta il 7 maggio. A Lorenzo Cambi e Simone Verzone D. 100. E per lui a Gioseppe de Ribera, dite se li pagano per ordine del conte Carlo Felesbergh et esserno in conto di D. 500 per il valore di dodici quadri d’altezza e di palmi cinque e palmi quattro di larghezza in ognuno dei qualci ci ha da essere dipinto un filosofo di sua propria mano che ha pigliato a fare per servito di don Carlo Felisbergh et quelli han da consegnare a loro fra sei mesi et mancando de consignare debbia restituire tutto il denaro ad ogni loro piacere. The prince is identified here as “Carlo Felesbergh.” Until then, the first source documenting a Liechtenstein provenance for the Ribera painting of Aristotle dated from 1767; see Vincenzio Fanti, Descrizzione Completa di tutto ciò che ritrovasi nella galleria di pittura e scultura di sua altezza Giuseppe Wenceslau del S.R.I. principe regnant della casa di Lichtenstein, Vienna, 1767, p. 105, cat. no. 531.
{2} See Clowes Archive, Newhouse Galleries correspondence, letter from Clyde Newhouse to GHAC, dated 22 November 1955, containing some information on this painting. Paintings from the collection of the princes of Liechtenstein were dispersed in 1954, including several of Ribera’s philosophers. Other paintings from this collection went to the National Gallery in Ottawa, Canada, in the same year; see “Canada acquires paintings from one of Europe’s noted collections,” Canadian Art, vol. XI, no. 4 (summer 1954): pp. 142-144.

Object Information

artist
Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish, 1590-1652)
creation date
1637
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
49 x 39 in. (canvas)
56-7/8 x 46-9/16 x 3 in. (framed, not glazed)
mark descriptions
Inscribed lower left (on image of document under figure's left hand) in black paint: Jusepe de Ribera español | F. 1637 [numerals underlined]
accession number
2000.345
credit line
The Clowes Collection
copyright
Public Domain
collection
European Painting and Sculpture Before 1800
colors

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