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El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

Portrait of a Man of the House of Leiva


El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)
Candia, Crete, 1541 – Toledo 1614


Portrait of a Man of the House of Leiva


About 1580-1585


Oil on canvas


87.8 x 69.5 cm


Adaline Van Horne Bequest, inv. 1945.885


Western Art

El Greco is renowned for the elongated forms, otherworldly brilliance of colours and spiritually evocative eccentricities of his style, derived to some extent from his early Byzantine-influenced training as an icon painter in Crete. Around 1558, El Greco went to Venice, where he studied with Titian and was influenced by Tintoretto. He later went to Spain and had settled in Toledo. This portrait was done not long after El Greco arrived in Spain, in the naturalist tradition of Venetian portraiture and without the arch-emotional intensity of the artist’s later Spanish portraits. Yet the simplicity of the presentation of the subject, the flame-like contour of his head and the direct gaze anticipate El Greco’s mature style and effectively communicate the subject’s pride in his status. The fragmentary inscription refers to him as a “gentleman of the house of Leiva.” Like his Venetian colleague Tintoretto, El Greco used a limited palette of browns, blacks and white. The painting has been cut down along the bottom, which explains why the fingers of the subject's left hand are missing.

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