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

Study of a Man

c. 1595
Oil on canvas, 49,5 x 42,5 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Likenesses have a special place in El Greco's work. Although he was primarily interested in painting religious subjects for ecclesiastical commissions, he also produced some outstandings portraits, often inserting them into his religious compositions, as for example in the famous "Burial of Count Orgaz" in Toledo. His formal portraits and studies from life are characterized by an element of drama and a penetrating insight into the character of the sitter. He was not interested in depicting the background, nor in the insignia of rank or office which would indicate the subject's worldly status or occupation, and his sitters nearly always face the spectator and their faces reveal the soul within.

No doubt the Study of a Man is a likeness, though we do not know the identity of the model nor in what connection it came to be produced. The sketchy greenish-purplish draperies and the cloud-streaked blue background are a perfect foil for the thin ascetic face with its sparse beard. The picture was usually believed to represent El Greco himself, but as a result of recent research it is now thought to be one of a series of likenesses of the Apostles - painted from an unknown model in Toledo.