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Carlo Avilio

Early Career Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick.

October 2016 -

PhD Thesis: Naturalism and the Picaresque in Jusepe de Ribera's Work

Viva passed on the 14th of March 2017

Supervisor: Dr Lorenzo Pericolo
Background: MA in Conservation of Cultural Heritage and School of Specialization in History of Modern Art (Naples, University Federico II)

Research summary
Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652) was undoubtedly the most prominent painter of Spanish Naples in the first half of the seventeenth century and one of the most innovative interpreters of Caravaggio’s painting in Europe. Scholars have singled out two important aspects of Ribera’s art: his “naturalism” and the affinity of many of his paintings with themes treated in the contemporary Spanish picaresque literature. However, neither his “naturalism” nor his “picaresque vein” have been examined extensively, carefully and in parallel with one another. Scholars have almost systematically perceived Ribera’s “naturalism” in merely stylistic terms. By the same token, his connection with the picaresque literature is often reduced to Ribera’s predilection for “plebeian” models and his propensity to represent high subject matters with low-class figures and accessories. The main goal of this research proposal is to offer a fully-articulated, precisely-documented and theoretically-grounded interpretation of Ribera’s naturalism and its interconnections with the picaresque novel as developed not only in Spain, but especially in Spanish Naples. My contention is, in fact, that these two aspects of Ribera’s art are not only inextricably bound, but also specifically rooted in early seventeenth-century Neapolitan culture and society, thereby reflecting the interests and tastes of Ribera’s patrons and cultural circles.
More to the point, I intend to demonstrate that the emergence of scientific experimentalism in Naples in the wake of Galileo’s “new science” and developed first in Rome, then in Florence and other Italian cities, is paramount for our understanding of both some crucial elements of Ribera’s painting commonly categorized as “naturalistic” and some parodic aspects of his picaresque vein. In the same manner, the poetics of the “miserable” that evolved in Neapolitan literature under the influence of Spanish models may be approached and sounded in order to establish the specificity of Ribera’s taste for the “humble”.
Full text (PDF Document)

  • ‘Una commedia inedita di Francesco Mastriani: Il marito di tela’, in Critica letteraria, XXXIX/151 (2011), n. 2, pp. 334-354 (PDF Document)
  • ‘La catacomba di San Gaudioso. Le radici della cristianità disegnano nuove prospettive per il quartiere della Sanità’, in Undergrounds in Naples. I sottosuoli napoletani, ed. Roberta Varriale (Napoli: CNR. Istituto di Studi sulle Società del Mediterraneo, 2009, pp. 91-101, CNR conference proceedings, Naples, November 2007) (PDF Document)
  • Per un primo profilo documentato di Giovan Battista De Pino’, in Arte Cristiana. An international review of art history and liturgical arts, XCVI/849 (2008), pp. 459-464 (PDF Document) 
  • Editor of the series Scoprire e riscoprire, short guides for local tourism (Napoli: D'Auria, 2008-; 3 volumes published)
  • ‘Un’aggiunta a Giovan Battista De Pino: una Carità romana in collezione privata’, under peer review.
  • ‘The Failure of Painting in Jusepe de Ribera’s Sense of Smell’, in Dialectics of Faith and Doubt in Seventeenth-Century Europe, edited by Aneta Georgievska-Shine and Matt Ancell, forthcoming.

Conference presentations

Paper title: "Portents of Nature: Jusepe de Ribera and the Bearded Woman"

  • Renaissance Society of America - 61th Annual Meeting, Berlin, 26th March 2015
    Pape title: "Comedic and Parodic Aspects in Ribera’s Lazarillo and the Blind Man"

  • Renaissance Society of America - 60th Annual Meeting, New York, 29th March 2014

Paper title: "Ribera's Five Senses: Between the New Science and the Picaresque"

Research Seminar:

University of Warwick, Department of History of Art, Research Seminar Series, 16th March 2016

"Painting Experience: Ribera's Series of the Five Senses" - poster (PDF Document)

Other webpages:



Prizes awarded

Curriculum Vitae (PDF Document)

email: C dot Avilio at warwick dot ac dot uk *** carloavilio at libero dot it


    Carlo Avilio

    John Fleming Travel Award 2013: presented to Carlo at the 39th Annual AAH Conference - University of Reading

    RSA 2014 - New York


    Berlin 2015 RSA