The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish/ Italian, 1591 - 1652)




Spain (Place Created)


about 1630–1635


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



125.1 × 92.4 cm (49 1/4 × 36 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

Emerging from deep shadows behind a table, a solemn individual stands displaying a well-worn book with various geometric figures, pseudo-Greek characters, and an imaginary script. Jusepe de Ribera paid considerable attention to the man's facial details, from the unkempt beard to the distinctive creases of his high forehead and the irregular folds of the lids above his dark, penetrating eyes. He depicted the wise man with tattered clothes and blackened, grimy fingers to emphasize the subject's devotion to intellectual, rather than material, pursuits.

The presence of mathematical diagrams in the illegible book reveal the figure's identity as Euclid, a prominent mathematician from antiquity, best known for his treatise on geometry, the Elements. Portraits of wise men were very popular in the 1600s, when there was a revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Rather than portraying the subject as a refined and noble figure, Ribera depicted him as an individual tried by a life of hardship, imbued with the force of a living personality.

about 1630/1637

Possibly Fernando Enríquez Afán de Ribera, 3rd Duke of Alcalá and Viceroy of Naples, 1583 - 1637 (Naples, Italy; Seville, Spain), by inheritance to his heirs.

19th century - 2000

de Boischevalier Family (Tourraine, France) [sold, Drouot-Richelieu, Paris, June 19, 2000, lot 52a, to Art Fragments Ltd.]
Note: as "17th century Spanish school, circle of Giuseppe Ribera"

2000 - 2001

Art Fragments Ltd. (Zürich, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001.


Drouot-Richelieu, Paris. Tableaux anciens bel ameublement. June 19, 2000, p. 21, lot 52A, ill.

Spinosa, Nicola. Ribera (Naples: Electa, 2003), pp. 77, 275, no. A73, ill.

Bakhuÿs, Diederik. "De Naples à Madrid: Galeries de philosophes antiques." In Les Curieux philosophes de Velazquez et de Ribera. Diederik Bakhuÿs, et al., eds. (Lyon: Fage, 2005), p. 58, fig. 26.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 105, ill.

Cavazzini, Patrizia. Painting as Business in Early Seventeenth-Century Rome (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008), pp. 112-13, fig. 58.

Spinosa, Nicola. Ribera: La obra completa (Madrid: Fundación Arte Hispánico, 2008), pp. 92, 364-65, 368-69, no. A 108, ill.

Salas, Charles. "Elements of a Ribera." Getty Research Journal, no. 1 (2009), pp. 17-26, figs. 1-2, 5, cover ill.

Doherty, Tiarna, and Anne T. Woollett. Looking at Paintings: A Guide to Technical Terms. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009), pp. 81-82, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B. The Burdens of Wealth: Paul Getty and His Museum (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2015), p. 400.

Allan, Scott, Davide Gasparotto, Peter Björn Kerber, and Anne T. Woollett. Masterpieces of Painting: J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018), pp. 10, 70, ill.