San Sebastiano curato da Sant’Irene (1628)

Ribera, Jusepe de (1591-1652)

San Sebastiano curato da Sant’Irene (St Sebastian Cured by St Irene)
Oil on canvas, 156.5 x 188 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

Jusepe de Ribera lived the greater part of his life in Naples, which at that time belonged to the Spanish crown. The memory of Caravaggio lived on in a city where many of his followers worked. Under the influence of the great Italian’s pictures, Ribera employed the language of tenebrism – strong contrasts of light and shade – to achieve powerful dramatic effects. This is true of his early work, St Sebastian Cured by St Irene. The Spanish artist chose an episode that is practically never found in Italian painting. Here the image of the young martyr is devoid of the aura of heroism that surrounds Titian’s Sebastian, nor is he an object of admiration like Perugino’s. The saint’s wounded body, hanging helplessly by the arm still fastened to the pillar evokes a sense of pain and compassion. He is hovering between life and death, as is conveyed by the struggle between the light and the darkness encroaching on all sides. It is under the cover of night, however, that the charitable Irene has come to him with her serving woman. She draws the arrows from Sebastian’s body and treats his wounds. (SHM)


Ribera, Jusepe de (1591-1652)
San Sebastiano curato da Irene
Museo de Bellas ArtesValencia