Of course, there is a notable difference between the Saint Teresa of London and that of Valencia: the first is signed by Ribera himself and the second is not. In fact, so far no document has been found that certifies that the Santa Teresa that is exhibited in the Valencian Fine Arts is the work of the ‘Españoleto’, although experts such as Nicola Spinossa have attributed it to Ribera.
Other specialists have preferred to be more cautious about the authorship of the painting that is exhibited in the old San Pío V. In 1998 the then director of the Fine Arts of Valencia, Fernando Benito, declared that “it is almost certainly not by Ribera, but it is of its surroundings ”. “Even so,” he added, “and not being signed, it can be presented as its own work, but justifying that it is a workshop work”. On that occasion, the doubts of several historians, such as Elías Tormo or Felipe Garín, about the true authorship of the Santa Teresa who is in the city of Valencia also came to the fore.
Little was known of the existence of the Saint Teresa, which is now being put up for sale in London, until Sotheby’s house put it up for auction in 1998 and it was awarded for 150,000 pounds. Until then, the only thing that was supposed was the existence of an original Santa Teresa painted by Ribera that later would have served as a model for the artist or some of her disciples for other similar paintings dedicated to the nun from Ávila. This is the case of the Santa Teresa that is in the Museum of Fine Arts of Murcia, another that is in the Fine Arts of Seville, another the collection of the Casa de Alba and that of Valencia.
Between these paintings and the one that has now gone on sale there are some differences, although the main figure is the same. They have a similar size, their protagonist faces the writing, changes the position of the skull deposited on the same book, the dove is kept, there is a movement of Santa’s arm… However, none of the replicas is signed.
The painting was from 1850 by a French private individual and was sold again in 1998 and 2014
That is why the appearance in 1998 of a Saint Teresa in which the author’s name appears written on the spine of the book held by the protagonist was a small artistic event. According to the Sotheby’s catalog, this work belonged to a private French collection since 1850, which put it up for sale on July 9, 1998. The buyer was another private collector, in this case “European”, according to Sotheby’s, who sold it from new on 3 December 2014 for £ 125,000 to the current owner who is now asking £ 250,000 for it.
There is at least one curious fact about the buyer of this painting in 1998. In December 2004 the Fundación Fórum Filatélico, based in Madrid, exhibited its magnificent collection of Flemish and Spanish painting at the Museum of the City of Valencia, considered the most important that was then in Spain in private hands. Among the 55 canvases that made up the series that arrived in Valencia was the original Santa Teresa de Ribera.
But, as is well known, the Fórum Filatélico tangible asset company was intervened in May 2006 accused of fraud, money laundering, punishable insolvency and unfair administration. Among other possessions, the judge ordered the sale of the collection of paintings in several batches through Sotheby’s.