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

“Duel of the Ladies (Women’s Duel)”, Jose de Ribera – overview of the painting
“Duel of the Ladies (Women's Duel)”, Jose de Ribera - overview of the painting - 1

  • Posted by Jose de Ribera
  • Museum: Prado Museum
  • Year: 1636

Overview of the painting :

Jose de Ribera – Duel of the ladies (Women’s duel). 1636. Oil on canvas. 235 x 212 cm

   This picture has an original and very interesting story. It was written as an integral part of the cycle of more than thirty paintings on the history of Rome. Several artists, including de Ribera, completed the order.

   The canvas is written on a real event. In 1552, two rich and noble Neapolitan ladies found out among themselves relations in a real duel. The reason for such an extraordinary event was the love of the local gentleman. He watched the passage of the “defeat” Marquis d’Avalos, a famous aristocrat.

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

   The composition is built as a battle of two Roman gladiators in a female form. In the background you can see a rather high, sloppy fence separating the audience from the arena. Behind it is a group of men in ancient outfits and military uniforms. They are armed – long spears and halberds rise above the crowd. The “mass” is depicted in dark, brownish tones for more contrasting selection of figures in the foreground.

   The “back” of the picture is a blurry image of the landscape with Vesuvius in the foreground and architectural elements. Both the building and the mountain are drowning in a light bluish-gray haze, only the sky in the distance is slightly golden from sunlight.

   The foreground of the canvas is an image of two fighting women in complex, somewhat mannered poses. This is characteristic of baroque painting, as well as the use of juicy paints and spectacular draperies with large, beautiful folds.

   One of the women, under the pressure of the opponent, fell, hiding behind a small shield on her hand. In the other hand, she has a long, thin sword, more like a rapier. This is a clear borrowing from a modern artist of the era – in Roman times they used a short wide sword – a gladius. This figure will personify the vice struck by Virtue.

   The second female figure is depicted in a punitive position. The sword is carried above the head of the defeated Powder, a round, bulging shield covers the body. Unlike the figure of a fallen woman, made in restrained and rather dark colors, Virtue is decorated with golden yellow chiton, collected in beautiful drapery.

   The canvas is impressive with expression and original plot, as well as a high level of paintings by the artist. She occupies a worthy place in the exposition of the Prado Museum.