Painting represents Lycurgus, a mythical and probably non-existent figure of a legislator from ancient Sparta, who according to tradition, would have lived between the 9th and 8th century BC. Between 1629 and 1631, Ribera made a series of twelve paintings representing characters from Ancient Greece, philosophers, scientists, geographers, or legislators, for the Viceroy of Naples, Fernando Enríquez Afán, III Duke of Alcalá. Later the series was dispersed, only a few works are currently known.
At the beginning of 1600, in the intellectual and culturally advanced circles of Rome and Naples, Greco-Roman Stoicism was a trend and this type of series of paintings by philosophers was in high demand. This explains why Ribera, made from 1631, a second series, commissioned by an unknown nobleman, identical to the one painted for the III Duke of Alcalá. Due to the presence of the name of the character "Liturgo" and the almost identical measurements, our painting corresponds to this second series, which belonged to the important collection of the Marqués de Remisa in Madrid (inventory number 226). Also from the collection of the Marqués de Remisa in Madrid (inventory of 1856, number 223) is known the work entitled "Tales Milesio", of the same size and from the same series, which is currently in a private collection in Paris (Spinosa 2008, p. 369, # A109). They are the only two known works that are preserved from the aforementioned second series.
This painting is a remarkable example of the activity of the Spanish painter carried out from 1631 onwards, in which the clean cut of the lights and shadows, as well as the definition of the anatomical features, and the concretion of the clothes and the flesh. Still under the influence of the naturalistic tendencies of the Caravaggesco style that characterize Ribera's production at the end of his youth years during his stay in Rome. The quality of the magnificent still life recreated by the books and scrolls in the hands of the legislator also stands out.