The National Museum of Western Art

update 03 July 2017

on display Permanent Collection

Jusepe de Ribera [Xàtiva, 1591 - Naples, 1652]

Philosopher Crates

Materials/Techniquesoil on canvas
Size (cm)124 x 98.5
InscriptionsSigned, dated and titled lower right: Josephf de Ribera español /.F. 1636 / crate tebano
Credit LinePurchased
Standard ref.Spinosa A216
Collection NumberP.1989-0001
Philosopher Crates

This canvas is one work from a noteworthy series by Ribera, painted primarily in the 1630s, representing the famous philosophers of antiquity. Each image in the series is minutely worked to reveal the philosophy and character of its subject, an approach that would have appealed to the humanists of the day. However, Ribera distanced himself from the traditional iconographic framework for such images, and in spite of the fact that these works were meant to represent wise men, he painted from actual models and rejected all idealization as he created powerful depictions of their actual figures. If the inscription on the lower right of this painting is reliable, this canvas depicts the Theban philosopher Crates. This philospher, a Cynic active around 320 B. C., is known to have been the student of Diogenes and the teacher of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism. Crates abandoned his property to become a mendicant and the author of didactic parodies, tragedies and dramas. Crates is known to have been a kind, wise and fascinating character with an ugly face. However, the man shown here is not particularly ugly in Ribera's philosopher series. This painting is known to have been in the collection of the Prince of Lichtenstein in the mid 18th century, and judging from historical documents, it is surmised to have been one of a series of six works painted for the Prince in 1636-37. Today this series is divided between museums in the west and the NMWA. All six works were gathered for display in 1992 when the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, held an exhibition on Ribera. That opportunity to view the six works together revealed that there are slight differences in the styles of the six works, and thus it is clear that some of the paintings involved work by Ribera's studio. Of the six works, the NMWA's image of Crates was particularly noteworthy for its powerful, true touch. (Source: Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 2009, cat. no.44)


Prinz Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein, 1637, and his successors, until 1950; Private Coll., since 1950; Galerie Nathan, Zürich; Purchased by the NMWA, 1989.

Exhibition History

Meisterwerke aus den Sammlungen des Fürsten von Liechtenstein, Kunstmuseum Luzern, 1948 - 1948, cat. no. N. A. 1.
Jusepe de Ribera: 1591-1652, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 18 September 1992 - 29 November 1992, cat. no. 39, repr. color.
Resonating Love and Life: European Art from National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, The Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art, Nagaoka, 12 April 1997 - 18 May 1997, cat. no. 2
Tanka at the National Museum of Western Art: An Encounter between Poet and Art, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 25 July 2000 - 29 October 2000, cat. no. 19
NO MUSEUM, NO LIFE?: Art-Museum Encyclopedia to Come: From the Collections of the National Museums of Art, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 16 June 2015 - 13 September 2015, cat. no. T-1


Fanti, Vincenzio. Descrizzione completa di tutto ciò che ritrovasi nella galleria di pittura e scultura di sua altezza Giuseppe Wenceslao del S.R.I. principe regnante della casa di Liechtenstein. Wien, 1767, p. 105, no. 533.
Dallinger, J. Description des tableaux et de pièces de sculpture, que renferme la gallerie de son altesse François Joseph Chef et Prince regnant de la Maison de Liechtenstein. Wien, 1780, p. 169, no. 573.
Falke, J. von. Katalog der Fürstlich Liechtensteinischen Bildergalerie im Gartenpalais der Rossau zu Wien. Wien, 1873, p. 45, no. 374 (as unknown philosopher).
Mayer, August L. Jusepe de Ribera (Lo Spagnoletto). Leipzig, 1908, p. 188 (as philosopher).
Kronfeld, Adolf. Führer durch die Fürstlich Liechtensteinsche Gemäldegalerie in Wien. 2nd. ed, Wien, 1927, p. 80, no. A55 (as unknown philosopher).
Kronfeld, Adolf. Führer durch die Fürstlich Liechtensteinsche Gemäldegalerie in Wien. 3rd. ed, Wien, 1931, p. 84, no. A374 (as unknown philosopher).
Turner, Evan H. Ribera's Philosophers. Wadsworth Atheneum Bulletin. Spring, 1958, p. 5.
Jusepe de Ribera, lo Spagnoletto (exh cat.). Felton, Craig; Jordan, William B, eds. Kimbell Art Museum, Fortworth, 1982, pp. 152-153.
Felton, Craig. Ribera's 'Philosophers' for the Prince of Liechtenstein. The Burlington Magazine. vol. 128, no. 1004, Nov. 1986, pp. 785-789.
Catalogue of painting acquisitions: 1979-1989. Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, 1990, pp. 55-56, repr.
Annual bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. Nos. 23-24 (1989-90), 1992, Yukiyama, Koji. New Acquisitions 1988-89. pp. 2, col. repr., 19-26, Catalogue of the New Acquisitions 1988-89. pp. 44-45, repr.
Kawaguchi, Kimio. Restoration of "Portrait of Philosopher Crates" by Juseph de Ribera. Annual bulletin of the National Museum of Western Art. Nos. 25-26 (April 1990-March 1992), 1994, pp. 35-41. col. repr.
Masterpieces: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, The Western Art Foundation, 2013 (Japanese, preface in Japanese and English), no. 33, col. repr.

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