Domenikos Theotokopoulos


Datos principales

El Greco
Fecha nacimiento 
Lugar nacimiento 
País nacimiento 
Fecha muerte 
Lugar muerte 


The Spanish painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos was widely known by the name El Greco. He was one of the artists who best knew how to interpret and develop Mannerism. He was born in the capital of Crete, at that time a Venetian possession. Details about his family are scarce; his father was called Giorgio and his elder brother was Manussos, a man with significant economic status because of his occupation as a tax collector for nearly twenty years. Manussos was also the president of seafarers guild, and obtained authorisation from the leaders of Venice to carry out piracy against the Turks. He was forced to sell his possessions in 1583 to pay a debt of 6000 ducats to the government and years later he moved to Venice. It is very likely that the Theotokopoulos family belonged to the Catholic colony in Crete and that therefore Domenikos would have received a broad and correct humanistic education. Artistically he appears to have been apprenticed to an icon painter called J. Gripiotis, although he also seems to have had contacts with Georgios Klontzas. El Greco worked in both Cretan painting styles that coexisted in the second half of the 16th century: the traditional style, "alla greca", following Byzantine models and the modern style, "alla latina", in accordance with [Italian Renaissance#ESTILOS#1] models. With this two-fold direction, El Greco quickly gained an important position among Cretan painters, being called "maistro" towards 1563. He was an erudite man with a restless spirit and high aspirations, both professionally and socially speaking. Crete became too small for him and so he decided to leave the island to continue his education elsewhere. With Crete being under Venetian it was logical that this was the young painter's initial destination. Sometime between January 1567 and August 1568 El Greco left for Venice, which had a Greek population of 4000, possibly including his brother Manussos. There is no reliable information about his stay in Venice, although there is a later mention referring to a period in Titian's workshop; his friend [Giulio Clovio#CUADROS#1684] presented him as "Titian's disciple", while Mancini added that he "had studied in Venice and particularly things of Titian". This cannot be proved but it is likely that El Greco had contact with the most prestigious workshops of the moment, not to carry out a normal apprenticeship - he was already twenty-six - nor to collaborate particularly closely with them, but rather to study the elements which most interested him. As can be observed in his work in Venice, El Greco assimilated the precepts of Renaissance painting. Brown wisely believes that El Greco did not complete his training with Titian as a lengthy relationship between the two of them would have allowed El Greco to establish himself in the city and continue with the ancient painter's studio, ensuring himself an acceptable future. It would make more sense then to think that El Greco used his time in the city to collect together, in an eclectic fashion, the aspects that most interested him of the great Venetian masters: Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, Bassano, Pordenone and Schiavone. He was especially interested in Mannerism. Three years later El Greco moved to Rome, staying there for seven years. We do not know why he decided to move, although it is possible that it was because of the fierce competition in Venice whereas in the Eternal City, after Michelangelo's death in 1564, it was easier to obtain good commissions. On the way it is almost certain that he stopped at Parma, where he would have studied Correggio and [Parmigianino's#pintor_en#2938] paintings. In November of 1570 he was in Rome and contacted the miniaturist Giulio Clovio. Their close friendship led to Clovio introducing him to one of the most important patrons of the time, cardinal Farnese. In the Farnese palace he met Fulvio Orsini, the palace librarian and antiquarian, who came to be an important figure for El Greco during his time in Rome. Orsini came from an illustrious family and was interested in Antiquity. He was a humanist, who owned an important art collection. El Greco took advantage of the educational opportunities he was presented with and studied the art collections belonging to the cardinal and his librarian. He also admired Michelangelo's work and that of the Roman Mannerists and was admitted into the Academy of San Luca in 1572, although only as a lowly miniaturist. This would suggest that El Greco did not shine very brightly in the competitive Roman Art world, where he did not receive any important public commissions. However, although it might seem that El Greco's years in Rome were not very productive, they were extremely important for his subsequent move to Spain. Fluvio Orsini's gatherings in the Farnese Palace were attended by scholars of many nationalities, one of whom was the Spaniard, Don Luis de Castilla. He was a young cleric and the son of the Dean of Toledo Cathedral, and is documented as being in Rome between 1571 and 1575. He became the artist's lifelong friend and defender and was the executor of El Greco's will. Towards 1575 El Greco began to consider moving to Spain. One reason was the possibility of obtaining commissions from Philip II to work on the decoration of the Escorial. Painters from Rome such as Tibaldi and Zuccaro were already working there. A second reason was a probable invitation from his friend to move to Toledo, where he could also find work easily. The die was cast for El Greco and his next destination was the Iberian Peninsula. He arrived in 1577, spending time at the court in Madrid before moving to Toledo where he received his first two commissions. These were the Despoiling of Christ (El Expolio) and the [altarpieces#CUADROS#825] for the convent of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The client for both works was Don Diego de Castilla, the dean of Toledo Cathedral and father of Don Luis. Documents related to the commissions indicate that El Greco's stay in Toledo was to be temporary and that his intention was to triumph in Madrid. This would be why he did a series of works for Philip II: the Triumph of the Holy League (also known as The Dream of Philip II) and the Martyrdom of St Maurice. However, the paintings did not please the king and were rejected. As a result El Greco settled in Toledo where he was extremely successful throughout the rest of his life. In Toledo, many cultured and influential figures became his patrons, commissioning him to paint his most spectacular works, and with whom he often became great friends. He formed a family in the city, although there is scant information on the matter. It seems probable that soon after his arrival in Spain he began a relationship with Doña Jerónima de las Cuevas, and their son Jorge Manuel was born in 1578. There has been much speculation about Doña Jerónima, with the suggestion that she was either an aristocrat or that she came from a Morisco family. There is no information to suggest that a marriage between the two lovers ever took place, giving rise to the idea that El Greco was already married in Italy, or that the birth of Jorge Manuel was the result of a youthful indiscretion, which would have led Doña Jerónima to the convent. There is no doubt that Jorge Manuel was illegitimate, being referred to on one occasion as "sobrino" (nephew), the name used at the time to denote illegitimate children. El Greco set up his home in the imperial city, living in an old Gothic Mudéjar palace belonging to the Marquises of Villena, which is no longer standing. He established a prosperous studio, dedicated to painting, the design of altarpieces and sculpture. His good friend and possibly business partner, Preboste, Jorge Manuel, Luis Tristán and Pedro de Orrente all worked in the studio, although the latter two were only there for a short time. Antón Pizarro, Pedro López and the sculptors, Miguel González and Giraldo de Merlo, were also connected to the workshop, as was the Flemish engraver Diego de Astor in 1605. The prices of the works were high for Spanish standards, leading to various court cases, such as those over The Despoiling of Christ and The Burial of Count Orgaz or the altarpieces for the Hospital of La Caridad in Illescas. Most of the money El Greco earned was squandered on his lavish lifestyle, as Jusepe Martínez said, "he earned many ducats, but he wasted them on his ostentatious way of life; he even had paid musicians in his house so that he could enjoy every pleasure while he ate". [Pacheco#pintor_en#2920] observed that "he was extraordinary in everything, and as extravagant in his paintings as in his customs". He slowly became established among the clientele in Toledo, who gave him his best commissions; between 1586 to 1588 he painted the famous Burial of Count Orgaz and did various altarpieces for religious institutions both in Toledo and Madrid - such as the famous commission for the church of Doña María de Aragón, now the Senate building in Madrid - and also in neighbouring villages, such as Illescas and Talavera La Vieja. His paintings became more and more stylised, as he developed his very personal style with elongated, distorted figures, violent, vibrant colours, and dramatic foreshortenings, which made a deep impression on the mystical Toledan society. Some experts have come to speculate that the cause of the distortions was a visual illness; however, recent studies have proved that El Greco painted in this way because it pleased both him and his clientele. According to the death certificate in the church of Santo Tomé, El Greco died in Toledo on 7th April 1614 at the age of 73 not having made a will and was buried in the Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. A few days before he had granted his son power of attorney so that he could make his will in El Greco's name, indicating that he was in bed, afflicted by an illness sent by God but in his right mind with all his faculties in order". He named his son sole heir and one of his executors was his good friend, Luis de Castilla. As with the rest of his life, there are some mysteries regarding the painter's burial. It is known that he was buried in the convent church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in an altar given by the nuns "for evermore" in return for 32,000 reals, which were pardoned in exchange for a monument for Holy Week and the decoration of the altar. The Adoration of the Shepherds was painted for this purpose and today it is in the [Prado#MUSEOS#1]. From these facts two hypotheses arise: the first is that the painter is still in Santo Domingo, buried alongside his daughter-in-law, Alfonsa de los Morales, covered by the construction of later tombs. The second is that in 1618 his body and Alfonsa's were moved to the church of San Torcuato, where Jorge Manuel was in charge of the works. This Toledan church has long-since disappeared so that today we do not know where the great Cretan painter's body lies. His life is summed up in a few verses by his friend the poet, Brother Hortensio Felix Paravicino: "Creta le dio la vida y los pinceles, / Toledo mejor patria, donde empieza / a lograr con la muerte eternidades" (Crete gave him life and brushes, / Toledo a better homeland where he begins/ to reach with death eternity").

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