Portrait of a Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest


Datos principales

El Caballero de la mano en el pecho
74 x 58 cm.
Go to Maps

Esquema relacional

Despite El Greco's foreign origins -he was born in Crete-, and his early training in a Byzantine style and later in [Venice#ESCUELAS#78], this painting is clearly typical of the Spanish School's portrait style. [Antonio Moro's#PINTOR#2801] was largely responsible for establishing this private portrait style and the elements he introduced penetrated the paintings by all of El Greco's contemporaries. These characteristics are also apparent in this work: a portrait of the upper body, the velvet outfit fashionable in the Courts of Madrid and the Escorial, adorned only with delicate chain and a medallion, with a starched lace cuff and ruff that was still relatively small compared to the extravagant collars that became fashionable later on, as can be seen in the portrait of [Don Jerónimo de Ceballos#CUADROS_en#1729]. The neutral background, with no spatial allusions to architecture or furniture, is also typical of this period. This type of portrait was commissioned by important members of the Court or civil servants and often included some symbol to denote their rank. El Greco's elegant subtlety can be appreciated by the fact that he only gives the figure two distinctions: the intricate pommel of the Spanish sword in the foreground and the gesture of the hand on his chest, which alludes to the rite of the "Fe del caballero", a rank only awarded to a few noteworthy figures. The gentleman's identity is not known for certain. His expression is serious and melancholy, which has resulted in certain speculations about who he might be. The suggestion that he had lost his left arm was even put forward at one time. This fact added to the date the portrait was painted has led some to think that it could be of the brilliant Spanish writer, Don Miguel de Cervantes who had lost his arm fighting in the [Battle of Lepanto#CONTEXTOS#15]. There is also the possibility that it is a self-portrait, although there is no evidence to support this idea. In October 1996 the painter went into the Prado's restoration workshops where it was restored by one of the most important experts on El Greco's paintings, Rafael Alonso, who has the restoration of fifty-eight paintings of the Cretan artist to his credit. It was intensively cleaned over three months and the surprising finished result was presented in December 1996. The signature in Greek capital letters, which was thought to be authentic, was eliminated. The black background became greyish which permitted the gentleman's silhouette to be appreciated perfectly and benefited the colouring and volume of the figure. Regarding the signature, Alonso stated that "towards 1580 El Greco no longer signed his works in capitals. Moreover, the handwriting is clumsy (...) and there are spelling mistakes". Even the tonality of the hilt of the sword has changed, so that now the different metals can be appreciated: silver bathed in mercury and embossed gold. These metals are reflected in the black silk of the gentleman's outfit, which has been improved in quality and is now much shinier. There has also been a change in the painting's measurements which have been reduced. Previous restorations added four strips of canvas to the painting, which were removed in this latest restoration. The gentleman now shines in all his glory before the onlooker, who observes a member of the aristocracy with slightly sloping shoulders, leaning slightly to the right on his sword. The controversy over the painting came about in March 1999 when the political party Izquierda Unida (the United Left) asked the Government a number of questions about the restoration of the picture, complaining heartily about the changes that had been made. It is up to each one of us to come to our own conclusions about the matter, and to identify either with the earlier gentleman or the one that we see after his controversial restoration.

Sobre artehistoria.com

Para ponerte en contacto con nosotros, escríbenos en el formulario de contacto