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Painting, 1630, 155.5×193.5 cm

Description of the artwork «Prometheus»

In the summer of 2009 Barbara Piasecka-Johnson (1937-2013), former Polish maid, who after a successful marriage of the heir to a giant pharmaceutical Empire Johnson & Johnson, was put up for auction by the London branch of Sotheby's auction of his collection of furniture and objects of art of the era Baroque. The total amount of sales totalled 9.9 million pounds (about $ 16 million), and the most expensive lot of the entire traded in the collection was a painting "Prometheus" Jose de Ribera: it was sold for 3.8 million pounds.

The high price is the result of synergy of many factors. Moreover, it is not always possible to tell which of them was crucial. Perhaps the fact that "Prometheus" is one of the characteristic paintings of Ribera, with its "brand" is highly dramatic and sharp chiaroscuro. And maybe to legendirovaniye paintings have a direct bearing on the rumors about the prurient interest of Ribera to the beating and torture. Or the role played by "caravaggesque" manner of performance "Prometheus", and Caravaggio as you know , always sells well.

Ribera used in "Prometheus," his favorite compositional decision to place the body in napryazhennoe and challenging position diagonally of the picture. In a similar, though not identical, provisions appear in the 1620-ies at the paintings of Ribera's saints Bartholomew (1, 2, 3), Andrey, Sebastian. Composition "worked out" for Christian saints, in 1630, the year or later when it says "Prometheus" was probably more appropriate for antique titanium. Moreover, the plot of the myth of Prometheus, the selfless defender of the human race from the tyranny of the gods, a picturesque exercise in the transfer of bodily pain and cramp.

According to one version of the myth of Prometheus, the Titan stole from the blacksmith Hephaestus in Olympus fire and gave it to the people, thus making the light, knowledge and civilization heritage of mankind. But the punishment of the gods for the spoliation of their prerogative was not long in coming. Zeus commands Hephaestus (in other versions – the Hermes) to chain Prometheus to the rocks of the Caucasus mountain range, where every night an eagle would peck at his liver in the morning are growing again.

Accurate transmission of the anatomy of the chained Prometheus, the limit tension of all the muscles, ragged, bloody wound in his side and, most importantly, the transfer of emotional intensity great strength – that's "calling card" of Ribera. All this makes the picture dramatic and exciting and such a welcome to buyers. According to some reports, sketches and drawings of Ribera regularly visited the Naples prison, where he watched the tortured prisoners. This enabled him to depict naturalistic human body is forcibly twisted, sprawled in an awkward and painful position. No wonder the Ribera is sometimes called "torture the artist".

Ribera really borrows from Caravaggio's painting technique, known as "chiaroscuro" and "tenebroso". Some old authors tried hard to find evidence of their personal meetings. But, for the sake of historical justice it should be clarified that, josé de Ribera and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio to meet you after all did not have time Caravaggio fled to Naples in 1607, and Ribera, most likely moved there and remained there for life a few years later, when Caravaggio was already dead.

Among the eight buyers chasing this lot at Sotheby's, were representatives of the Prado, but they failed to replenish the collection of the main Museum of Spain. Unfortunately, the identity of the new owner of "Prometheus", according to the auction rules of confidentiality, remains unknown.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Nude, Mythological scene

Style of art: Baroque

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1630

Size: 155.5×193.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 17 selections