The painting is part of a series of Apostles and represents either Saint Thomas or Saint Matthias, both of whose attribute is a spear. Several other Apostles from the series are known. The gritty realism of the hand and dirty nails is typical of the work of Ribera.
Apostle series were common in Europe from the sixteenth century, and series were painted by El Greco, Rubens and Van Dyck. A complete Apostle series by Ribera dating from the 1630s is in the Prado, Madrid.
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