Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish-Italian, 1591-1652) Attributed: Portrait Study of Moses, oil on canvas, unsigned, c.1637.
Jusepe de Ribera, also known as JosÃ© de Ribera and Josep de Ribera and oftentimes referred to in contemporaneous accounts as â€œLo Spagnolettoâ€, is regarded as the leading Spanish tenebrist painter, although he spent the majority of his career in Italy. His powerful compositions distilled Caravaggio's tenets to create works that were jarring, striking, and powerful in nature. His works are sought after by collectors and are held in such collections as the Met, the Louvre,and the Prado, among others.
A 1964 appraisal by the renowned art historian Sigmund Rothschild of New York outlines his reasoning for attributing the work to the great master using formalist art historical analysis alongside extensive conservation investigation to conclude that this work was most likely from the Royal Collection at the Alcazar in Madrid.
The Alcazar was a fortress turned royal residence in Madrid that housed the two-thousand work collection of Spainâ€™s royal family comprised of noteworthy pieces by some of historyâ€™s most notable artists including Velazquez, Rubens, and Leonardo Da Vinci, among many others. On December 24, 1734, a fire that could not be calmed ravaged the building, destroying any piece that could not be quickly removed or thrown out the second-story window was lost to the flames. In the inventory was a Moses (Moyses in church latin) by Ribera.
When physically examining the work, Rothschild, alongside a Whitney Museum conservator, determined that the paint itself was surely from the seventeenth-century and found evidence of fire damage on the piece, which may have been cut down due to extensive damage. Rothschild concludes his report with the declaration , â€œWith respect to such circumstantial evidence as subject matter, materials, composition, technique, palette, and the fact that the painting, under testing, shows evidence of fire, I would propose that our work is a lost Ribera possibly from the Alcazar.â€
33.5 x 43.88" canvas