Description of the picture:
Saint Onufry – Jose de Ribera. 1637. Oil on canvas. One hundred thirty x one hundred four cm
Saint Onuphrius is a representative of the early Christian deserts, who lived all alone in the desert of Egypt for more than sixty years. He is revered by almost all Christian denominations, including Catholics, Orthodox and Eastern ancient Christian churches, in particular, the Syrian and Armenian Apostolic.
On the canvas of de Ribera, the saint is depicted naked to the waist. This is a dry, sinewy, but not exhausted old man with a gray beard. He prays at the makeshift altar, clasped his hands, in which are held long beads of dark bones of some fruits. On the altar in front of St. Onufry are symbols of the mortality of earthly power – a human skull, a golden crown and a scepter. They are nothing compared to the power of the Lord.
The rest of the design is completely in the spirit of the artist – it is almost completely absent. In addition to the altar with its expressive ornaments, you can notice only the “clothes” of the hermit, мейд from leaves collected in nature.
The background of the picture is neutral, which is a cave drowning in twilight. Only a small, dimly lit part of the wall is visible. All that is located behind the saint is deep, dense and impenetrable darkness.
The painting was painted in a style typical of de Ribera, with a pronounced emphasis on the details of the image by the light flux. This method gives sculpturality and volume, makes the body alive and expressive.
The color scheme of the canvas is very restrained, one might say strict. But due to the use of warm expressive shades, she does not look gloomy. The main color here is golden, these are the sun’s rays penetrating through the entrance to the cave. They fill the body of the praying man with a yellowish color, giving it a special vitality and realism.
The absence of numerous small details distracting the attention of the audience helps to concentrate all the looks on the face of the saint. There is no religious ecstasy, the imprint of the torment or suffering experienced. Despite the fact that this man spent his whole life alone in the desert, he did not despair and did not turn into a fanatic. On his face is literally written a deep, unwavering faith in the omnipotence of God. He raised his eyes and prays not for his own good, but for the well-being of all mankind. It becomes clear why this particular person became so popular and revered a saint.
The painting of de Ribera, despite the scarcity of visual means, remains in memory for a long time thanks to the high skill of the painter."