Dressed in voluminous robes, crowned with laurel, and leaning on a stone with head in hand, The Poet is one of Ribera's most striking images made early in the artist's career. The iconography, a synthesis of the attributes of Melancholy and Poetry, has been explored in detail by scholars, who have found literary parallels ranging from verses by Walther von der Vogelweide (1170?–1230) to works by Petrarch and Lorenzo de' Medici. Another suggestion that the poet is Virgil seems plausible, especially since his tomb was traditionally thought to be in Naples. Generally identified with a columbarium, or dovecote mausoleum, above the 'Grotto' or tunnel of Posilipo, the purported burial place of the famous poet was a tourist attraction beginning at least in the sixteenth century. A well-known legend had it that on top of the tomb grew a bay tree that continued to blossom over the centuries while its roots forced their way through the stone, causing cracks to appear.
Vendor: P. & D. Colnaghi & Co.
B.XX.83.10; Brown 1973 no.3 (early impression)
Adam von Bartsch Le Peintre graveur. Vienna, 1803.
Jonathan Brown Jusepe de Ribera: Prints and Drawings Exh. cat., Princeton, Princeton University, The Art Museum and Harvard University, Fogg Art Museum, 1973-74. Princeton, 1973.
Artist: Attributed to Jusepe de Ribera (called Lo Spagnoletto) (Spanish, Játiva 1591–1652 Naples)Date: 17th centuryMedium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over black chalk (recto); black chalk, graphite, or leadpoint (verso)Accession: 2008.178.7a, bOn view in:Not on view