Thus wrote a contemporary critic on the occasion of Francisco Ribalta's death. Ribalta rose to the position of Valencia's leading painter from humble beginnings: after his parents died in 1581, he traveled from Barcelona to Madrid, where he studied paintings in the royal collection, met the Spanish and Italian artists decorating El Escorial palace, and developed his Mannerist style. When Philip II's death in 1598 ended his hope of royal employment, Ribalta moved to Valencia, where an archbishop was engaged in numerous artistic projects. Throughout his career, Ribalta painted mostly religious subjects that expressed his deeply felt spiritual beliefs. After the archbishop's death in 1511, commissions were fewer and Ribalta's work grew more introspective.
Ribalta probably never visited Italy, but around 1620 his style began to reflect the trends of the Italian Baroque. His figures became somber and cruder, and he treated light with dramatic chiaroscuro. The archbishop's replica of a Caravaggio altarpiece may have inspired his change in vision; scholars know that Ribalta copied it himself.