(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

Giulio Clovio

Oil on canvas, 58 x 86 cm
Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples

Giulio Clovio (1498-1578), a 'Greek' from Croatia, friend of El Greco's, worked as a miniaturist in the Farnese Library. He is portrayed holding an open book, his most famous work, an illuminated manuscript the Libro della Vergine, known as the Farnese Hours (at the time in the Farnese Library, and now in the The Morgan Library and Museum, New York). The book is shown open at folios 59v, showing God the Father creating the Sun and Moon, and 60r, showing the Holy Family.

The portrait was painted probably soon after El Greco arrived in Rome (November 1570), and almost certainly for his friend. In the seventeenth century, it was in the possession of Fulvio Orsini, librarian to Cardinal Farnese. This is perhaps the earliest independent portrait by the artist who was to become one of the greatest portrait painters of all time. Three splendid portraits belong to his Italian years: the present portrait, possibly the earliest, and the signed portrait of a man in Copenhagen, both Titianesque; and the more personal Vincentio Anastagi, a signed portrait in the Frick Collection, New York. It is unfortunate that the self-portrait mentioned by Giulio Clovio is lost.