Solsona, 1565 – Valencia, 1628
The painter Francesc Ribalta’s strong and balanced drawings portrayed an unadorned reality. He abandoned the classicist mannerism and, with strong similarities to Caravaggio, chose sincerity, using high levels of expression and a realism that was infrequent at the time.
In his works, which were often religious in theme, naturalism remained subordinate to a mystical, emotionally intensive sentiment, in which he presented the supernatural credibly and in close proximity to the viewer, using simple composition.
Francesc Ribalta lived in Girona and probably, though we can’t be sure, was trained in Barcelona. From 1613 to 1615 he spent time in Italy. In 1582 he was in Madrid, where he painted The Crucifixion (La Cruicfixió), the first of his well-known paintings, currently found at the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. In the signa- ture of this painting, the painter wished to add the word Catalan after his name.
He lived and worked in Madrid, immersed in the artistic world of El Escorial. San Lorenzo del Escorial — monastery, palace and royal mausoleum — was built by King Philip II of Castile. At the time it was the centre of art production and the focus of Italianising influences due to the fact that some of the decorating work was commissioned to Italian painters brought over especially by the monarch. These included Pellegrino Tribaldi, Federico Zuccaro, Luca Cambiaso, one of the first to work in the Tenebrist style, and Sebastiano del Biombo, who influenced Juan Fernández de Navarrete (knows as The Mute), and Joan Macip Navarro (known as Joan de Joanes) who were to become representatives of Italian painting, like Francesc Ribalta.