- Museum number
- Object: The Martyrdom of Saint Bartholomew
St Bartholomew tied to a tree, flayed by an executioner with a knife in his mouth to right; boy and head of an idol on the ground to left, two soldiers to right; three priests and landscape beyond. 1624
Etching and engraving
- Production date
Height: 314 millimetres
Width: 241 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Made during his most intense period of printmaking, this is Ribera's first multi-figured etched composition and his last print with a religious theme. Its subject is the martyrdom of Bartholomew the Apostle. Technically this is one of his most remarkable prints and this early impression shows the enormous variety of etching marks employed to describe the figures. Most striking is the delicate stippling across the saint's body to define areas of shadow and the whiteness of his skin that contrasts with the deep sculptural folds of the executioner's garments. The technical mastery combines with complex emotions of those represented to produce a moving account of the saint's martyrdom. Bartholomew gazes toward the crown as he accepts his fate without any struggle. The executioner has positioned his feet to provide maximum balance, the knife is clenched between his teeth emphasising his preparedness and concentration. The younger executioner in shadow at the left sharpens his knife and looks toward the viewer, relishing it seems his impending chance to take part. Behind him a soldier gazes out toward the viewer drawing us into the composition.
The print carries a dedication to Prince Philibert Emmanuel of Savoy who was the Viceroy of Naples from 1620. The practice of dedicating prints to prominent individuals was a way of flattering them to try and secure patronage. The dynamic composition employing elements recognisably his and the quality of this print would surely not have failed to impress. But whatever patronage Ribera hoped to solicit from the prince was thwarted because he died on August 4 the same year.
See Ribera's drawing of the same subject (T,13.11) that represents his first thoughts for the print.
Lit.: M.P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', London 2012, p.182. Further literature to be added
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number