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Jusepe de Ribera, Saint James the Lesser, ca. 1632.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- The San Diego Museum of Art announced the acquisition of Saint James the Lesser (ca. 1632) by Jusepe de Ribera. This 17th-century work by the renowned Spanish Baroque master builds on the Museum’s prestigious collection of Spanish art. The painting is currently on display in the European galleries alongside other masterpieces in the collection by Francisco de Zurbarán, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, and El Greco. 

Considered the first great Old Master of the Spanish Baroque, Jusepe de Ribera is known for his detailed, unflinchingly hyperrealistic depictions of the human body. 

Born in Spain, Ribera moved to Italy seeking prominence as a young artist. Known for signing his paintings “Jusepe de Ribera, español,” Ribera used his nationality as a marketing tool to connect to wealthy Spanish patrons in Naples; this is also what led to his nickname “Lo Spagnoletto” or “little Spaniard.” It was in Italy where Ribera secured his fame and produced his most legendary works, including Saint James the Lesser. Several large religious institutions commissioned works from him, including the Certosa di San Martino. 

Since the inception of this institution, The San Diego Museum of Art has had a deep connection to Spanish art and we’re delighted to welcome Jusepe De Ribera’s Saint James the Lesser into the permanent collection,” said Roxana Velásquez, Maruja Baldwin Executive Director of The San Diego Museum of Art. “The work is a significant addition to the Museum’s collection, and further contributes to the recognition of our collection of Spanish holdings as among the finest in the world.” 

Michael Brown, Ph.D., the associate curator of European Art at The San Diego Museum of Art, said, “Ribera was one of the most innovative artists of his day, a true pioneer of a new realistic approach to painting. His scenes connect so powerfully because he depicted a recognizable world - his saints look as though they've been plucked from the gritty streets of Naples.” 

This life-sized representation of Saint James shows him gazing upward and holding an excerpt of the Apostles’ Creed. The piece features dramatic lighting and intense highlights, characteristics of Ribera’s best works. This saint was a particular favorite of Ribera’s, as was the recognizable model, who appears in other works by Ribera, which are on display across the globe including at the Thyssen-Bornemisza and The Prado, both in Madrid, Spain. 

The work’s quality is on par with those found at the world’s finest museums, including the Louvre, the National Gallery, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and will be the singular painting by Ribera in the Museum’s permanent collection. 

Spanning the centuries from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, the Museum is acclaimed for its collection of Spanish masterpieces. The façade of the Museum itself includes life-sized sculptures of Murillo, Zurbarán, and Diego Velázquez as well as reliefs in tondo of Ribera and El Greco. The Museum now has paintings within its collection from each of the artists on the façade, except for Velázquez. 

Purchased by the Museum from Rafael Valls, LTD and Helena Mola, Ribera’s Saint James the Lesser joins the collection following the recent acquisitions of Sorolla’s By the Seashore, Valencia, Zurbarán’s Saint Francis in Prayer in a Grotto, and Pedro de Mena’s San Diego de Alcalá, a Spanish baroque sculpture. These works now complement an impressive collection of art by Francisco de Goya, El Greco, Sánchez Cotán, Valdés Leal and more.