Image Resources | Currently on View in Medieval Renaissance Gallery

Aristotle

Jusepe d. Ribera (Spanish, 1590-1652)


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

Object Information

artist
Jusepe d. Ribera (Spanish, 1590-1652)
creation date
1637
materials
oil on canvas
dimensions
49 x 39 in.
accession number
2000.345
credit line
The Clowes Collection
copyright
Public Domain
collection
European Painting and Sculpture to 1945
colors