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

Portrait of a Cardinal

c. 1600
Oil on canvas, 171 x 108 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The sitter is usually identified as Cardinal Don Fernando Niño de Guevera (1541-1609), Grand Inquisitor and, from 1601, Archbishop of Seville. The painting was executed c. 1600, when Inquisitor-General, and certainly before he became Archbishop of Seville. He is one of a number of eminent ecclesiastics of Toledo portrayed by El Greco, and it is one of his finest portraits. The splendour and richness of colour is appropriate to the character and rank of the sitter. The frontal turn of the pose concentrates attention on the figure. El Greco suggests the cardinal's personality through the emphasis on his prominent glasses, the compulsive gesture of his left hand, the animated, nervous brushwork, and the singular colour range. The painting is signed on the creased paper on the floor.

This celebrated picture - a landmark in the history of European portraiture - has become synonymous not only with El Greco but with Spain and the Spanish Inquisition.