Jusepe de Ribera (Spanish (active in Italy), 1591–1652)
129.5 x 101.3 cm (51 x 39 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
William I. Koch Gallery (Gallery 250)
Ribera painted many half-length images of saints for Catholic patrons, most likely for private worship. Here he rendered the hermit Saint Onophrius—unkempt, wearing a loincloth of leaves—with great realism: dirty fingernails, hollowed cheeks, flesh sagging from his emaciated frame. The monochromatic palette reinforces the subject’s asceticism and piety. In the foreground, the skull is a memento mori, or symbolic reminder of human mortality, an additional admonishment to the devout viewer.
Lower center: Jusepe de Ribera es / panol F 1642
1644, possibly acquired by Cardinal Carlo de' Medici (b. 1595 - d. 1666), Florence [see note 1]; possibly given by Carlo de Medici to Carlo Gerini (b. 1616 - d. 1673), Florence[see note 2]; until the 19th century, by descent within the Gerini family [see note 3]. William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley (b. 1817 - d. 1885), London; June 16, 1900, posthumous Earl of Dudley sale, Christie, Manson and Woods, London, lot 52, to S. T. Smith for £8.8. 1910, possibly Blakeslee Galleries, New York; 1910, possibly sold by Blakeslee to Frank Gair Macomber (b. 1849 - d. 1941), Boston [see note 4]; 1936, gift of Frank Gair Macomber to the MFA. (Accession Date: November 15, 1936)
 In 1644 Carlo de' Medici acquired two paintings depicting Saint Mary of Egypt and Saint Jerome by Ribera. See: Elena Fumagalli "Le 'Ambiguita' di Pietro da Cortona e la prima attività di Ciro Ferri," Paragone (1997) no.13 pp 54,70,n141. The MFA painting has been identified as both Saint Jerome and Saint Onophrius throughout its history and it is possible that the two paintings Carlo de'Medici acquired are the ones that made their way to the Gerini collection.
 As suggested by Maria Teresa di Dedda (email to the MFA, March 1, 2010).
This painting and a companion, St. Mary of Egypt by Ribera (now Montpellier, Musée Fabre) were recorded in the 1673 posthumous inventory of Carlo Gerini. The two paintings were listed together in an inventory of the Palazzo Gerini in 1733. The paintings were engraved by Carlo Fauccio based on drawings by Niccolo Magni and were published along with other engravings of paintings in the Gerini Collection in 1786. The Gerini collection was dispersed in the 19th century. See: Maria Teresa di Dedda "Volterrano, Rosa, Mehus, Dolci, Borgognone e la quadreria del Marchese Carlo Gerini (1616-1673). Documenti e dipiniti inediti" Storia dell'Arte (2008) no. 119 pp 35,39,43,63
 In 1910, Blakeslee sold Macomber a painting by Ribera, which he lent to the MFA. In his correspondence with Arthur Fairbanks of the MFA (February 3, 1910), Macomber does not specify the painting's subject, only the dimensions of its frame: 75 x 95 in. However, it is certain that Mrs. Frank Gair Macomber lent this painting to the exhibition "Spanish School: Loan Collection" (Boston, Copley Society, 1912), no. 42 (as "Saint Jerome").
Gift of Frank Gair Macomber