Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Tityus or Prometheus; a nude male figure lying on the ground, an eagle or vulture pecking at his innards, other studies of the same figure across the sheet Pen and brown ink and wash

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1620-1625 (c.)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 227 millimetres
    • Width: 165 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Verso inscribed in pen and ink: 'Ribera'.
  • Curator's comments

    Modified text from McDonald 2013

    The sheet contains a number of studies of a figure representing either Tityus or Prometheus. In Greek mythology both shared the same fate of having their livers eaten by birds of prey as punishment for their crimes. The lustful Tityus, the giant who attempted to rape Leto, was sent to Hades and staked to the ground where two vultures fed on his ever regenerating liver. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus who punished him by having Prometheus bound to a rock while an eagle continually ate his liver. Ribera does not provide enough specific detail to allow us to determine which figure is shown here. That there is only one bird of prey is insufficient to claim with any certainty that it is Prometheus.

    The British Museum drawing has been associated with Ribera’s 1632 painting of Tityus in the Museo del Prado (P-1113). But another drawing in the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe in Rome is much closer and shows Tityus at two slightly different moments (Brown 1976, no.20). The Prado painting is testament to Ribera’s interest in the subject. In the drawings and the painting the figure is bound by both arms and he is positioned at an obtuse angle to heighten the sense of his agony. Surrounding the central figure on the British Museum sheet are several other figures viewed from different angles that appear to be tumbling in space. Ribera achieved his effect by turning the sheet to work on it from different sides, the aim of which was to explore the motion of the bound and writhing body in space.

    The technique of this sheet is very similar to the Martyrdom of St Bartholomew (T,13.111). In both drawings, the central figure is sketched rapidly and made to stand out from the background through using parallel shading around the contours of the body. The body itself is articulated only through faint lines to suggest its form. Ribera used pen and ink for preliminary sketching because it could quickly define outline while chalk was more tonal.

    Attached to reverse of mount is a sheet of manuscript notes. Reproduced in reverse in the 'Cabinet de M. Denon'.

    W. Vitzthum and A.M. Petrioli, 'Cento disegni napoletani, Gabinetto disegni e stampe, Florence, 1967, no.34; J. Brown, 'Jusepe de Ribera: prints and drawings', Princeton, 1973, no. 7, pl. 34; A.E. Pérez Sánchez, 'Historia del dibujo español de la Edad Media a Goya', Milan, 1986, p.206; 'Ribera: 1591-1652',, Museo del Prado, Madrid 1992, no.D.16; C. Fischer and J. Meyer, 'Italian Drawings in the Department of Prints and Drawings Statens Museum for Kunst, Neapolitan Drawings', Copenhagen, 2006, under no.14; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain',, British Museum, London 2012, pp.185-6; M. P. McDonald, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya’, exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, no. 43; G. Finaldi (ed.), 'Jusepe de Ribera, The Drawings. Catalogue raisonné', Madrid, 2016, no. 36


  • Bibliography

    • McDonald 2013 43 bibliographic details
    • Brown 1973 7 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (Spanish Roy XVIIc)

  • Exhibition history

    1976 BM, 'Spanish Drawings' (no cat.) 1980 Feb-Mar, Nottingham Uni, 'Spanish Art', no. 27
    1992 May-Aug, Madrid, Museo del Prado, `Jusepe de Ribera`
    2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
    2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
    2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
    2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era. Purchased through the sale of duplicates from the Malcolm collection and recorded as Malcolm Addition 169. Collector's stamps

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number


Tityus or Prometheus; a nude male figure lying on the ground, an eagle or vulture pecking at his stomach Pen and brown ink


Tityus or Prometheus; a nude male figure lying on the ground, an eagle or vulture pecking at his stomach Pen and brown ink

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: PDO278

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help