Michael hodges show of the week

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - ART -

Are you feel­ing brave? Be­cause Art Of Vi­o­lence, the first-ever Bri­tish show ded­i­cated to 17th- cen­tury Span­ish baroque mas­ter Jusepe de Rib­era, is pretty bru­tal. There are scenes of un­war­ranted cru­elty, tor­ture and ex­e­cu­tion, and it comes with the warn­ing: ‘This ex­hi­bi­tion con­tains one ex­am­ple of hu­man remains.’

Those remains are a piece of tat­tooed skin, in­cluded here to fur­ther il­lus­trate Rib­era’s com­pul­sive ren­der­ing of the mar­tyr­dom of St Bartholomew, skinned alive in the 1st cen­tury AD. Two great pic­tures of this scene dom­i­nate the first room. The ex­e­cu­tioner and his as­sis­tant, un­washed and dressed in rags, have id­iot grins and the pug fea­tures of sim­ple­tons. Such peo­ple will al­ways be with us, Rib­era

Dul­wich Pic­ture Gallery, Lon­don Un­til Jan 27

seems to sug­gest, but con­cen­trate in­stead on Bartholomew. Filled with di­vine grace, his eyes in­vite us to tran­scend his very un­pleas­ant demise. The pain­ter clearly owes Car­avag­gio for the chiaroscuro tech­nique, but no one does im­plor­ing eyes like Rib­era.

There are mouths open muscles clenched in pain in suf­fer­ing and through­out this

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