(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
Antonio de Covarrubiasc. 1600
Oil on canvas, 67,5 x 57,5 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The sitter, Antonio de Covarrubias y Leiva (1524-1602) was the son of a Toledan architect, the master of works at Toledo Cathedral, who also designed the façade of the Alcázar in the city. Antonio studied law at the University of Salamanca. He became a noted jurist, antiquarian, philosopher, poet, humanist and Hellenist. He was ordained in 1581 and made a canon of Toledo Cathedral. It was about this time that El Greco met Covarrubias. The two men felt at ease with each other, possibly speaking together in Greek. As a tribute to his friend, El Greco included Covarrubias in his Burial of the Count of Orgaz, where he is seen in profile towards the right.
In this austere yet sensitive representation El Greco demonstrates his skill as a portraitist. The sitter's black costume contrasts with his white beard and the light flesh tones of his face. He seems lost in thoughts, his watery eyes looking into the void. The portrait was probably painted around 1600, when Covarrubias had become completely deaf.
Soon afterwards El Greco produced a copy of the portrait, which he paired with a posthumous portrait of Antonio's brother Diego de Covarrubias, a distinguished canonist and adviser to Philip II. These paintings are now in the Museo de El Greco in Toledo.