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Portraits by El Greco

Portrait by El Greco

Portraits by El Greco

Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541 – 1614), widely known as El Greco (“The Greek”), was a painter of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” was a nickname, a reference to his Greek origin.

Tour of Portraits by El Greco:

  • Portrait of an Elderly Nobleman by El Greco – Museo del Prado
  • Portrait of Cardinal Tavera by El Greco – Museo Fundación Lerma
  • Portrait of Jerónimo de Cevallos by El Greco – Museo del Prado
  • Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos – Museum of Fine Arts of Seville
  • Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco – Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
  • Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias by El Greco – Louvre, Paris and El Greco Museum in Toledo
  • Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco – Museo del Prado

El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century. He is best known for elongated figures and often fantastic pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

El Greco also excelled as a portraitist, able not only to record a sitter’s features but also to convey their character. His portraits are fewer in number than his religious paintings but are of equally high quality.

Portrait of an Elderly Nobleman by El Greco

Portrait of an Elderly Nobleman by El Greco is a portrait whose subject’s name has been lost, but he probably came from Toledo, where the artist was then working. This work is considered one of the artist´s most exceptional portraits.

The anonymous nobleman faces the scrutiny of the viewer directly. El Greco shows him in a narrow white ruff and a neutral background, which points the way to Modern Age Portraits.

With the combination of thin and thick brushstrokes, he manages to bring the sitter extraordinarily close to us. It is signed on the right with Greek letters. It is one of El Greco’s superior executions for the supreme simplicity of substance and form.

This portrait was found in 1666, stored in the basement of the Real Alcázar of Madrid. The Royal Alcázar was a fortress located at the site of today’s Royal Palace of Madrid, Madrid, Spain. The fort was converted into a royal palace when Madrid became the capital of the Spanish Empire. Despite being a palace, the grand building kept its original title of Alcázar (English: “fortress”).

The Royal Alcázar held a vast art collection. It is estimated that at the time of the fire of 1734, there were close to 2,000 paintings, of which some 500 were lost. This painting was one of the approximately 1,000 pictures which were rescued.

Portrait of an Elderly Man

  • Title:                   An Elderly Gentleman
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                   1587 – 1600
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 46 cm (18.1 in); Width: 43 cm (16.9 in)
  • Museum:           Museo del Prado

~~~

Portrait of Cardinal Tavera by El Greco

Portrait by El Greco

Portrait of Cardinal Tavera by El Greco

Portrait of Cardinal Tavera by El Greco was painted long after the 1545 death of its subject, cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera. El Greco modeled the Cardinal’s features on a funerary mask.

Juan Pardo de Tavera (1472–1545) was a cardinal and was Archbishop of Toledo and Grand Inquisitor of Spain (1539–1545). Following the death of Isabella of Portugal in 1539, Charles V appointed Juan Pardo de Tavera regent of Castile in his absence, a post he would hold until 1541. At the same time, he was appointed Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

The administrator of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo commissioned El Greco with this portrait of the founder more than half a century after his death. Working from a deathmask would justify the hardness and coldness of the face, which shows the cadaverous expression.

The canvas shows the Cardinal sitting, half-length, dressed in a red plaid. In front of him is a table with a deep green mat. On the table is a breviary on which he rests his left hand and his cardinal bonnet.

During the Spanish Civil War, in 1936, the canvas was violently slashed and was later restored in 1940, but it lost the usual signature of the Greek painter.

Portrait of Cardinal Tavera by El Greco

  • Title:                    Portrait of Juan Pardo de Tavera
  • Artist:                  El Greco
  • Year:                    1610
  • Medium:             Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 102 cm (40.1 in); Width: 81 cm (31.8 in)
  • Museum:             Museo Fundación Lerma

~~~

Portrait of Jerónimo de Cevallos by El Greco

Portrait by El Greco

Portrait of Jerónimo de Cevallos by El Greco

Portrait of Jerónimo de Cevallos by El Greco is from late in his Toledo period.  Although the subject faces the viewer, he turns his gaze away, creating an almost imperceptible sensation of instantaneous movement.

El Greco’s technique demonstrates an extraordinary lightness of paint. Titian and the Venetian School influence the neutral background.

It shows Jerónimo de Cevallos, a distinguished jurist of law at Escalona, but also frequently in Toledo on business as a secretary and counselor. He was also the patron and protector of El Greco’s son Jorge Manuel.

The portrait comes from the Duke of Arc’s villa, from where it went to the royal collection. It originally hung in the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid. The palace began as a royal hunting lodge and later became an alternative residence of the kings of Spain.

Portrait of Jerónimo de Cevallos by El Greco

  • Title:                   An Elderly Gentleman
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1613
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 64 cm (25.1 in); Width: 54 cm (21.2 in)
  • Museum:           Museo del Prado

~~~

Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos by El Greco

El Greco - Portrait of the Artist's Son

Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos by El Greco

Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos by El Greco depicts the artist’s only son. 

Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli (1578 – 1631) was a Spanish painter and architect, who learned his trade working in the studios of his father.

After his father died in 1614, he focused on his interest in architecture. He later became the Master Builder, sculptor, and architect for the Toledo Cathedral.

He eventually came to financial ruin from a dispute with the Hospital de Tavera, where his father had left a significant commission uncompleted.

Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos

  • Title:                    Portrait of the Artist’s Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1600 and circa 1605
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 74 cm (29.1 in); Width: 51.5 cm (20.2 in)
  • Museum:            Museum of Fine Arts of Seville

~~~

Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco

Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco

Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco

Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco depicts a monk of the Trinitarian Order and a major Spanish poet who was also a close friend of the painter. He is shown in the Trinitarian habit.

The Trinitarian friar is presented almost full-length, from the front, with just a slight turn of the head. The habit of his Order has the red and blue cross that gives a note of color to the composition.

The figure is set on a neutral background in which the reddish layer in the background can be seen where the application of oil is lighter.

His eyes reflect the intelligence that characterized this man. Paravicino was a close friend of the artist, and a prominent theologian, orator, and poet.

With his left hand, he holds a huge book accompanied by a small book in which he has inserted one of his fingers. 

Limiting the colors almost entirely to the black and white of the friar’s habit, El Greco created a subtle image that emphasizes psychological rather than physical presence.

Hortensio Félix Paravicino y Arteaga (1580 – 1633) was a Spanish preacher and poet from the noble house of Pallavicini. He was a great connoisseur of painting, but argued for the destruction of all depictions of nudes:

“the finest [ nude] paintings are the greatest threat: burn the best of them.”

However, these views were too extreme for even 17th century Spain, where the King and leading courtiers kept galleries of such works in private rooms. His sermon on the subject was not published in the pamphlet for which it was written.

Paravicino dedicated four sonnets to El Greco’s memory in a volume of poems published in 1641. The poem included the lines:

“Crete gave him life, Toledo his brushes and a better homeland…”

This painting was purchased in 1904 by the  Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on the recommendation of John Singer Sargent, who was an admirer of El Greco.

Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco

  • Title:                  Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1609
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 1,121 mm (44.13 in); Width: 861 mm (33.89 in)
  • Museum:          Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

~~~

Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco

Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco

Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco

Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco, which dates from the last period of El Greco’s career attests to the artist’s profound gifts as a portraitist, which were praised since his time in Italy and remained undiminished.

Dr. Francisco de Pisa (1534–1616), was an important Toledan cleric and historian of the city. The open book displayed on the table is identified by lettering on its pages as BOSIUS CANONICI, presumably an edition or commentary on the corpus of canon law. 

The subject bequeathed this portrait to the convent together with his endowment to the Convent of the Purísima Concepción de Nuestra Señora, also known as the Convent of the Benitas.

The pose of this subject is similar to that in Portrait of Cardinal Tavera (above), which is of a similar date.

Portrait of Francisco de Pisa by El Greco

  • Title:                  Portrait of Dr. Francisco de Pisa
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1610 – 1614
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 107 cm (42.1 in); Width: 90 cm (35.4 in)
  • Museum:           Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth

~~~

Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias by El Greco

Portrait by El Greco

Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias by El Greco

Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias by El Greco depicts one of the most notable jurists in Toledo, a professor of law at the University of Salamanca, a member of the Council of Castile, and a personal friend of the painter.

A copy of this portrait by El Greco can also be found in the El Greco Museum in Toledo. The neutral background again shows the influence of Titian and the Venetian school.

El Greco influenced the history of portraits in Spain, with examples such as this painting, with which he established himself as the artist who introduced the psychological portraiture.

His portraits show the subtle and challenging technique for capturing the inner lives of his subjects.

Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias by El Greco

  • Title:                  Portrait of Antonio de Covarrubias
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1597 – 1600
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 68 cm (26.7 in); Width: 57 cm (22.4 in)
  • Museum:           Louvre, Paris   and El Greco Museum in Toledo

~~~

Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco

Portrait by El Greco

Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco

Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco originally hung in the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, but its subject is unknown.

El Greco depicts a man with a gaunt face bearing a mustache and goatee, large dark, almond-shaped eyes, and a long, thin nose. His short, dark hair brings out his pale complexion.

He is dressed in black, with a short ruff collar, and the lapels and collar of his outer garment suggest it is a sort of cassock. The background is of a greenish-ochre color.

El Greco’s versatility is demonstrated in his ability to adapt his brushstrokes with high precision for the face details. He has applied multiple narrow touches for the hair, a full brush for the sinuous ruff collar, and his excellent resolution for the ear and the nose.

He carefully defined the left eye, which is quite different from the right, it is more blurred, and without the same definition.

Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco

  • Title:                   An Elderly Gentleman
  • Spanish:             Retrato de un caballero
  • Artist:                 El Greco
  • Year:                  1586
  • Medium:            Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 67 cm (26.3 in); Width: 55 cm (21.6 in)
  • Museum:           Museo del Prado

~~~

El Greco

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, widely known as El Greco, Spanish for “The Greek,” was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance.

The artist frequently signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos), often adding the word Κρής (Krēs, “Cretan”).

He is best known for elongated figures and for marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

El Greco was born in Crete, which at that time was part of the Republic of Venice and the center of Post-Byzantine art.

He trained and became a master Byzantine art before traveling to Venice to work; then he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works.

In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.

El Greco’s style was met with puzzlement by his 16th-century contemporaries. However, he found greater appreciation in modern times and is today regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism.

His works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers, and he is considered, as an artist, so individual that he belongs to no conventional school.

El Greco

El Greco: A collection of 218 paintings

Portraits by El Greco

El Greco Restoration

EL GRECO PORTRAITS

~~~

“I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.”
– El Greco

~~~


Photo Credit: El Greco [Public domain]

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