Head of an old man with beard and cap
Théodule-Augustin Ribot ( French, 1823 - 1891 )
A self-taught artist, Théodule Ribot began as a decorator of gilded frames, a copyist of old masters, and a sign painter. After he was refused at the Salon in 1859, he exhibited in the studio of his friend Franҫois Bonvin with Henri Fantin-Latour, Antoine Vollon, Alphonse Legros, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. He was accepted by the Salon of 1861, where he received considerable acclaim. Ribot was well respected by his fellow artists. He painted not only religious subjects like the Saint Sebastian, Martyr, which the French government bought in 1865, but also still-lifes, genre paintings, and history paintings. Inspired by old masters like Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, and Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, his most profound influence came from the Spanish painter Jusepe de Ribera, whom he discovered in the late 1840s at the Musée du Louvre in King Louis-Philippe's celebrated Galerie Espagnole. Ribot was fascinated by chiaroscuro and used muted tones and dark colors to make dramatic compositions. His drawings were highly regarded during his lifetime and were exhibited in galleries such as Bernheim-Jeune and in his posthumous exhibition at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1892.
The study of a man's head seems to have been reused in different paintings. Variations of the strong, bearded man wearing a cap can be found in The Good Samaritan, 1870 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau) and Oyster and Clients, 1869 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen), but the closest figure is Cimabue in the unlocated painting representing Cimabue Teaching Giotto.
Olivier Meslay, in Mind's Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne, eds. Olivier Meslay and William B. Jordan (Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 2014) 76.