National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by Allan and Maria Myers and Andrew Sisson, 2006
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
17th to 18th Century European Paintings Gallery Level 2, NGV International
Jusepe de Ribera is a Spanish-born artist who spent his entire artistic career in Italy, where he became the leading painter in Naples in the first half of the seventeenth century. An autograph work from the early 1620s, the Martyrdom of St Lawrence is distinguished by Ribera’s vigorous execution and startling naturalism. It was possibly commissioned to decorate the high altar of the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. According to traditional accounts, St Lawrence was martyred by being roasted alive on a gridiron in Rome on 10 August 258, during the persecution of the Christians by Emperor Valerian.
The frame on Ribera’s The Martyrdom of St Lawrence (1620-24) (acquired 2006) is believed to have been made for a former owner of the painting Count Anatole Nikolaievich Demidov (1813-1870). Demidov owned the picture from 1836 to 1870.
A London dealer who bought the picture in 1975 and sold it in 1976, noted “ … the frame would have been commissioned in Florence by Prince Demidoff at San Donato when he owned the painting. It has always been known as a Demidoff frame.”
The frame is in the manner of seventeenth century Florentine reverse moulded frames, carved in wood and gilded.
The sight edge of this frame appears to be formed from the permanent attachment of a slip into the rebate, otherwise the design and carving of the frame might suggest an earlier date. The connection of the frame to Demidov is based in the documented interest he had in frames for his paintings. Though his ownership of this painting is well documented, the source of the frame has not come to light. It appears on the painting in an undated photograph from the 1960’s with a matching frame on another Ribera from the Demidov collection, The Martyrdom of St Bartholomew.
At least two carvers and gilders are associated with frame making for Demidov: Fratelli Pacetti (for Ary Scheffer Portrait of Princess Mathilde, 1844), and Félicie de Fauveau (Ary Scheffer Francesca da Rimini, 1835).
Bakhuizen’s Ships in a Storm; Berchem’s A Southern Harbour Scene; Cuyp’s The Avenue at Meerdervoort; Hobbema’s, A Ruin on the Bank of a River; Weenix’s, Dead Game, all apparently share a frame called the Demidoff frame, which is unlike the one on the NGV Ribera.
Spanish frames from the seventeenth century vary from geometric decorative work to scrolled foliage. They are often partially gilded and polychromed more often using black painted frieze panels for contrast. They commonly have rectilinear outer edges rather than the heavily articulated leaf forms found on this frame.