“Ladies Duel (Women’s Duel)”, Jose de Ribera – description of the painting

Description of the picture:

Jose de Ribera – Ladies Duel (Women’s Duel). 1636. Oil on canvas. Two hundred 30 5 x two hundred twelve cm

   This painting has a unique and very exciting story. It was written as part of a cycle of more than 30 paintings on the history of Rome. Several painters made an order, including de Ribera.

   The canvas is written on a real event. In one thousand 500 50 two years, two wealthy and noble Neapolitan ladies sorted things out among themselves on the most true duel. The prerequisite for such a non-standard action was the love of the local gentleman. He watched the passage of the “battle” of the Marquis d’Avalos, a recognizable aristocrat.

   The image in the picture, despite the real background of the action, is allegorical. Many researchers interpret the plot as a duel between virtue and vice.

   The composition is built as a battle of 2 Roman gladiators in a female form. In the background is visible quite high plank fence separating the audience from the arena. Behind her is a group of guys in ancient outfits and military uniforms. They are armed – over the mass rise long spears and halberds. “Mass” is depicted in black, brownish tones for a more contrasting selection of figures on the frontal plane.

   The backdrop of the picture is a blurred image of the landscape with Vesuvius in the background and building elements. Both the building and the mountain are buried in a light bluish-gray haze, only the sky in the distance is a little golden from sunlight.

   The frontal plan of the canvas is an image of 2 ladies fighting in complex, somewhat mannered poses. This is typical of Baroque painting, as well as the introduction of rich colors and beautiful draperies with large, beautiful folds.

   One of the ladies fell under the pressure of the adversary, hiding behind a small shield mounted on her hand. In her other hand, she has a long, narrow blade, more like a rapier. This is an obvious borrowing from the contemporary artist of the era – in Roman times a small wide blade was used – the gladius. This figure will spiritualize the vice affected by Virtue.

   The second female figure is depicted in a punitive pose. The blade is brought over the head of the defeated Vice, a round, convex shield covers the body. Unlike the figure of the fallen lady, executed in restrained and sufficiently black colors, Virtue is decorated with a golden yellow tunic, assembled in a beautiful drapery.

   The canvas impresses with its expression and unusual plot, as well as the highest level of artist’s colorful craftsmanship. It occupies a worthy place in the exposition of the Prado Museum."