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

Portrait of a Man

Oil on canvas, 116 x 98 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

El Greco probably painted the portrait in Rome several years after moving there in November 1570. Here he became a friend of the Farnese family and thus part of intellectual circles with an interest in the philosophical issues of Renaissance humanism.

The chalk holder on the armrest, accompanied by a book with white and red bookmarks, suggests that the unknown man in the painting might be an artist. He makes an eloquent gesture characteristic for an orator.

In the absence of documentary evidence there is no basis for making definite identification of the sitter, although many proposals can be found in the literature. The portrait demonstrates that El Greco successfully assimilated the Venetian style of portrait-painting while working in the city between 1567 and 1570. Indeed, until his signature was rediscovered in 1898, the picture was thought to be a self-portrait by Tintoretto.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.