The Holy Family with Saints Anne and Catherine of Alexandria

Jusepe de Ribera (called Lo Spagnoletto) (Spanish, Játiva 1591–1652 Naples)

Oil on canvas
82 1/2 x 60 3/4 in. (209.6 x 154.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Samuel D. Lee Fund, 1934
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    Spanish by birth, Ribera lived all of his adult life in Naples, which was ruled at the time by a Spanish viceroy. During his early years in Rome, he adopted Caravaggio’s practice of working directly from posed models. In this work, figures drawn from everyday life are translated into compelling images of saints. Key to the impact of his paintings was his use of formal compositions derived from his study of Raphael. Ribera’s art brings together in a unique fashion the two strands of seventeenth-century Italian painting: Caravaggesque naturalism and classical idealism.

  • Catalogue Entry

    The Holy Family is on the right of the painting, with Saint Joseph standing and the Virgin sitting next to him, the Child on her knees. Kneeling in front of them is a young woman who kisses Christ’s outstretched right hand. Generally described as a "female saint," she has been identified as Saint Catherine of Alexandria. According to the Golden Legend, Saint Catherine had a vision of Christ appearing to her, and was mystically married to him. This was a popular subject in Italian Renaissance paintings, and Catherine is often shown as accepting a wedding ring from the child Jesus. Behind her is an old woman, holding a basket with peaches and grapes, and offering a rose with her right hand. She has been recognized as a servant, or as the Virgin’s mother, Saint Anne.

    Ribera did not show any of the figures with haloes, and the setting is a simple domestic interior, with cotto floor. Next to the Virgin is a basket with a pillow used for embroidery. It is possible that the painting is linked to a poem of 1602 by José de Valdivielso on the life of Saint Joseph that describes the saint’s house and carpenter shop. Gustav Friedrich Waagen commented in 1838 that "you fancy that you see here, not the holy, but a very common, nay, rather vulgar family."

    Ribera depicted similar scenes, such as the Holy Family from the late 1630s (Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, Rome), the Rest from the Flight into Egypt from the late 1640s (Fondo Cultural Villar-Mir, Madrid), and the Adoration of the Shepherds, signed and dated 1650 (Musèe du Louvre, Paris). A smaller devotional painting of the Virgin and Child that also dates to 1648 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) is particularly similar to the MMA canvas, and the same model was used for the Virgin’s head. The composition of the painting reveals the influence of Raphael, of the Venetian school, and of Guido Reni on Ribera; links to Zurbarán have also been noticed.

    The original location of the painting is unknown. The size of the canvas suggests that it was an altarpiece, for a church altar or possibly for a private chapel. The picture was acquired in Italy by Jean-Baptiste Pierre Le Brun around 1807–8, and he claimed that "il sort de l’une des plus belles galleries de Gênes."


  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (right): Jusepe de Ribera español / accademíco Ro.no. (member of the Roman Academy [Accademia di San Luca]) / .F.1648

  • Provenance

    private collection, Genoa (until 1807/8); [Jean Baptiste Pierre Le Brun, Paris, 1807/8–at least 1810; unverified sale, Paris, April 1810, no. 128]; Sir Thomas Baring, 2nd Bart., Stratton Park, Southampton, Hampshire (by 1824–d. 1848); his son, Thomas Baring, M.P. for Huntingdon (1848–d. 1873); his nephew, Thomas George Baring, later 1st Earl of Northbrook, Stratton Park (1873–d. 1904; cat., 1889, no. 237); his son, Francis George Baring, 2nd Earl of Northbrook, Stratton Park (1904–19; his sale, Christie's, London, December 12, 1919, no. 134, for £546 to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, London, 1919–21]; Henry George Charles Lascelles, Viscount Lascelles, later 6th Earl of Harewood, London (1921–34); [Seligmann and Rey, Paris and New York, 1934; sold to MMA]

  • Exhibition History

    London. British Institution. 1828, no. 51 (lent by Sir Thomas Baring).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1872, no. 97 (lent by Thomas Baring, Esq.).

    London. New Gallery. "Exhibition of Spanish Art," 1895–96, no. 61 (lent by the Earl of Northbrook).

    London. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd.. "Magnasco Society Loan Exhibition," 1925, no catalogue? (lent by Viscount Lascelles).

    New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 115.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 125.

    Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 54).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Painter's Light," October 5–November 10, 1971, no. 1.

    Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Jusepe de Ribera, lo Spagnoletto, 1591–1652," December 4, 1982–February 6, 1983, no. 36.

    Naples. Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte. "Jusepe de Ribera, 1591–1652," February 27–May 17, 1992, no. 1.95 (as "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine").

    Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Ribera, 1591–1652," June 2–August 16, 1992, no. 120 (as "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Jusepe de Ribera, 1591–1652," September 18–November 29, 1992, no. 66.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting," March 4–June 8, 2003, no. 62.

  • References

    [Jean Baptiste Pierre] LeBrun. Recueil de gravures au trait, à l'eau forte, et ombrées, d'après un choix de tableaux de toutes les écoles, recueillis dans un voyage fait en Espagne, au Midi de la France et en Italie, dans les années 1807 et 1808. Paris, 1809, vol. 2, pp. 18–19, no. 128, ill. (engraving), states that he acquired the painting from a gallery in Genoa between 1807–8; reads date as 1648.

    W[illiam]. Buchanan. Memoirs of Painting, with a Chronological History of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution. London, 1824, vol. 2, pp. 255, no. 128, as owned by Sir Thomas Baring; notes on p. 251 that Le Brun exhibited in Paris in 1910 the entire collection of paintings he formed between 1807–8.

    G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. "Kunstwerke und Künstler in England." Kunstwerke und Künstler in England und Paris. 2, Berlin, 1838, pp. 249–50.

    G[ustav]. F[riedrich]. Waagen. Works of Art and Artists in England. London, 1838, vol. 3, p. 39.

    [Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 2, p. 180.

    Carl Justi. Diego Velázquez and His Times. London, 1889, p. 343, dates the painting to 1643; calls it "Holy Family with St. Catharine".

    W. H. J. Weale and Jean Paul Richter. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures Belonging to the Earl of Northbrook. London, 1889, pp. 182–83, no. 237, cites it in the collection of the Earl of Northbrook; transcribes the date as 1643.

    C. Justi. "Bücherschau: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures Belonging to the Earl of Northbrook." Kunstchronik, n.s., 1 (1890), p. 320.

    Karl Woermann. "Jusepe de Ribera." Zeitschrift für bildende Kunst, n.s., 1 (1890), p. 179, cites it among works by Ribera from 1643.

    Exhibition of Spanish Art. Exh. cat., New Gallery. London, 1895, p. 15, no. 61.

    August L. Mayer. Jusepe de Ribera (Lo Spagnoletto). Leipzig, 1908, pp. 117–19, pl. 34, refers to it as "The Marriage of St. Catherine".

    Paul Lafond. Ribera et Zurbarán. Paris, 1909, p. 69.

    August L. Mayer. Geschichte der spanischen Malerei. Leipzig, 1913, vol. 2, p. 20, pl. 10.

    Pictures by Old Masters. Christie's, London. December 12, 1919, p. 26, no. 134, transcribe the date as 1648.

    August L. Mayer. Geschichte der spanischen Malerei. Leipzig, 1922, p. 274, fig. 203.

    Magnasco Society. "The Magnasco Society." Apollo 2 (November 1925), pp. 297–98, ill., refers to it as "The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine"; as lent to the Magnasco Society exhibition by Viscount Lascelles.

    Carl Justi. Diego Velázquez und sein Jahrhundert. Zürich, 1933, p. 554.

    "The Metropolitan Museum Buys Well Known Canvas by Ribera." Art News 32 (August 18, 1934), p. 12, as formerly in the collection of the Earl of Harewood.

    August L. Mayer in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 28, Leipzig, 1934, p. 233.

    Harry B. Wehle. "A Painting by Jusepe Ribera." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (July 1934), pp. 119–22, ill., notes that most writers on Ribera have read the last digit of the date as a 3, "but it looks more like a 7 which the artist has converted into an 8".

    Walter Pach in Masterpieces of Art: Catalogue of European and American Paintings, 1500–1900. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1940, pp. 83, 85, no. 115, ill.

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, p. 233, ill.

    José Gudiol. Spanish Painting. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Toledo, 1941, p. 86, fig. 56 (detail), notes double diagonal composition is typical of Ribera's late style, [not in exhibition].

    Klaus Berger. "Courbet in His Century." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 24 (July 1943), pp. 20–29, ill. (overall and detail).

    Delphine Fitz Darby. "The Gentle Ribera: Painter of the Madonna and the Holy Family." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 29 (March 1946), pp. 159–60, 163, 167–70, 172, ill., suggests the artist's family served as models for this picture; believes the same model was used for the Virgin here and in paintings of the Madonna and Child in Philadelphia and Munich.

    Carlos Sarthou Carreres. J. José de Ribera y su arte: El Españoleto y su patria. Valencia, 1947, pp. 53, 98, 107.

    Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1952, p. 230, no. 125, colorpl. 125.

    Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. Ribera. New York, 1952, pp. 179–80, 205–6, figs. 134–36 (overall and details), identifies the object in the basket at lower right as "a pillow for making embroidery"; observes that the date is "now read as 1648".

    Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 284, no. 2396, pl. VIII (color).

    Martin Soria in George Kubler and Martin Soria. Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and their American Dominions, 1500 to 1800. Baltimore, 1959, p. 242, pl. 126.

    Julián Gállego. La peinture espagnole. Paris, 1962, pp. 88, 107, ill. (color detail).

    Ellis Waterhouse. Italian Baroque Painting. London, 1962, pp. 179–80, ill.

    Diego Angulo Íñiguez. "Pintura del siglo XVII." Ars hispaniae: Historia universal del arte hispánico. 15, Madrid, 1971, p. 109.

    Everett Fahy. "Juan de Pareja by Diego Velázquez: A History of the Portrait and its Painter." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29, part 2 (June 1971), p. 457, ill.

    Craig McFayden Felton. "Jusepe de Ribera: A Catalogue Raisonné." PhD diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1971, pp. 39, 107–10, 117, 316–18, no. A–109.

    James Byam Shaw. Old Master Drawings from Christ Church, Oxford. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1972, p. 70, reproduces a drawing of a woman (no. 118, later identified as St. Irene) which he describes as "clearly drawn from the model in the studio," and notes that the same model appears as St. Anne in our painting, but looks older.

    Francis Haskell. Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France. Ithaca, N.Y., 1976, p. 20, pl. 35.

    Nicola Spinosa. L'opera completa del Ribera. Milan, 1978, p. 122, no. 194, ill. p. 121 and colorpls. 53–54 (overall and detail).

    Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 296, fig. 532 (color).

    Jusepe de Ribera, lo Spagnoletto, 1591–1652. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. Seattle, 1982, pp. 27, 220–23, no. 36, ill., (overall in black and white and color, details in black and white).

    Clovis Whitfield in Painting in Naples 1606–1705: From Caravaggio to Giordano. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1982, pp. 43, 226.

    G. De Vito. Ricerche sul 600 napoletano: Saggi vari. Milan, 1983, p. 46.

    Clelia Ginetti and Paolo Ricoveri in La pittura a Napoli da Caravaggio a Luca Giordano. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Turin. Milan, 1983, p. 129.

    Nina Ayala Mallory. Bartolomé Estebán Murillo. Madrid, 1983, p. 41, fig. 28, relates it to Murillo's "Adoration of the Shepherds" in the Prado.

    Carlo Del Bravo. "L'armonia del Ribera." Artibus et Historiae no. 17 (1988), pp. 185–86, ill.

    José Luis Morales y Marín in Historia del arte valenciano. 4, Valencia, 1989, pp. 137–40, ill. (color, overall and detail).

    Monique de Beaucorps. La peinture espagnole. Paris, 1990, pp. 54–55, ill. (color).

    Nina Ayala Mallory. Del Greco a Murillo: La pintura española del Siglo de Oro, 1556–1700. Madrid, 1991, pp. 101–2.

    Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée. "Le réalisme selon Ribera." Connaissance des arts 484 (June 1992), pp. 96–97, ill. (color).

    Craig McFayden Felton. "Ribera's "Suicide of Porcia": A Newly-Identified Painting of a 'Famous Woman'." Apollo 135 (January 1992), p. 10, ill.

    Julián Gállego and Fernando Benito Doménech. Homenaje a Ribera. Exh. cat.Valencia, 1992, pp. 117–18, 138.

    Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. New York, 1992, p. 33.

    Denise Maria Pagano in Jusepe de Ribera, 1591–1652. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1992, pp. 29, 55, 142, 149, 155–58, no. 66, 228, 259, ill. (color, overall and detail), state that this painting is anticipated by the earlier "Holy Family in a Carpenter's Workshop" (Sovrano Militare Ordine di Malta, Rome) and that both works probably refer to a 1602 poem by José de Valdivielso on the life of Saint Joseph.

    Keith Christiansen. "Jusepe de Ribera: A Master Who Never Flinched." Art News 92 (January 1993), p. 114, ill. p. 115 and masthead (color, overall and detail).

    Nicola Spinosa in Il Secolo d'Oro della pittura napoletana: da Battistello a Luca Giordano, pittori del Seicento nei musei di Napoli. Exh. cat., Castel Sant'Elmo. Naples, 1994, pp. 15, 36, ill.

    Julián Gállego. Visión y símbolos en la pintura española del Siglo de Oro. 4th ed. Madrid, 1996, p. 202.

    Denise Maria Pagano in Genio e passione: La pittura a Napoli da Battistello Caracciolo a Luca Giordano e le relazioni con la Sicilia. Exh. cat., Chiesa di San Giorgio dei Genovesi. Naples, 1997, pp. 29, 65.

    Nicola Spinosa. "La pittura a Napoli nel Seicento." Napoli viceregno spagnolo, una capitale della cultura alle origini dell'Europa moderna (sec. XVI–XVII). Naples, 2001, vol. 2, pp. 455, 471, ill.

    Véronique Gerard Powell in Écoles espagnole et portugaise. Paris, 2002, p. 224, compares the monumental treatment of this painting, which she calls "The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine," to Ribera's Adoration of the Shepherds in the Louvre; notes that in both works the face of the Virgin is identical, and an old woman, traditional in Neapolitan Adorations, looks out towards the viewer.

    Deborah L. Roldán in Gary Tinterow and Geneviève Lacambre. Manet/Velázquez: The French Taste for Spanish Painting. Exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay, Paris. New York, 2003, pp. 6, 444–45, no. 62, ill. p. 445 and fig. 1.5 (color) [French ed., "Manet/Velázquez: La manière espagnole au XIXe siècle," Paris, 2002, pp. 20–23, fig. 3 (color)].

    Nicola Spinosa in Jusepe de Ribera: El Españoleto. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional de San Carlos [Mexico City]. Barcelona, 2003, pp. 64, 170, 186, notes that Ribera's Virgin and Child in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with a variation in the pose of Jesus, repeats the composition of these figures in our painting.

    Nicola Spinosa. Ribera. Naples, 2003, pp. 212–13, 247 nn. 176–77, p. 339, ill. pp. 214–15 (color, overall and detail) and 339, calls it The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine and identifies the figure at the far left as "the old servant (or the aged mother of Mary?)".

    Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), p. 9, ill. p. 10 and back cover (color, overall and detail).

    Nicola Spinosa. Ribera. 2nd ed. Naples, 2006, pp. 212–13, 247 nn. 176–77, pp. 375–76, no. A324, ill. pp. 214–15 (color, overall and detail), 375.

    Nicola Spinosa. "Da Caravaggio a Massimo Stanzione." Pittura del Seicento a Napoli. 1, [Naples], 2010, pp. 49, 377.

    Nicola Spinosa. Grazia e tenerezza "in posa": Bernardo Cavallino e il suo tempo, 1616–1656. Rome, 2013, pp. 17, 137, fig. 143 (color).

  • See also