Jusepe de Ribera, St. Peter and St. Paul (detail), 1616. Oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg, France.
Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652) was an accomplished Spanish Tenebrist painter who studied and worked in Italy. Tenebrism incorporates dramatic lighting with extreme contrasts of light and dark. Ribera’s work incorporates detailed observations of humanity, both physical and emotional. Like his great inspiration, Caravaggio, Ribera’s use of dramatic illumination produced works of great emotional weight. He was known in Italy as Lo Spagnoletto (“the Little Spaniard”). In this example, a youthful St. Paul is shown on the right, brandishing a sword and holding an open scroll, his powerful gaze directed at the viewer. The older St. Peter, his face partially hidden in the shadows, turns toward Paul as he too grasps the scroll.