Jusepe de Ribera (Xàtiva 1591 - Naples 1652)
The Denial of Saint Peter
oil on canvas
163 x 233 cm
The Denial of Peter was long attributed by Roberto Longhi to the so-called Maestro of the Judgement of Salomon. This supposition was based on the homonymous painting housed at the Borghese Gallery. Now, it is rightly attributed to Ribera, who must have produced during his early years in Rome.
Born in Xàtiva, Spain, the painter arrived in the papal city around 1606, where he encountered the extraordinary pictorial renewal started by Caravaggio. In fact, it was the ‘Denial of Peter” by Merisi, currently held at the Metropolitan Museum, the starting point of this painting.
Saint Peter who after having been asked, denied knowing Christ (Mt 26, 69-95), is rendered on the right side in an interrogating mood. Ribera, unfolds the scene horizontally and adds a couple that accuses the Saint and a scene of tavern, where some guards are playing on a table.
The representation of Gospel episodes by horizontal lines and set in contemporary scenery became commonplace among Caravaggio’s followers. Produced around 1615-1616, shortly before Ribera’s departure to Naples, the masterpiece can be identified as the one mentioned by Giovan Francesco Cussida in 1624 and by Carlo De Rossi’s in 1683 in their respective inventories. In the eighteenth century, it was included to the collection of cardinal Lorenzo Corsini, future Pope Clement XII, and since 1750 it was held in the palace of via della Lungara.