An Elderly Gentleman El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This portrait has been given a fairly wide date of 1587-1600. It features an elderly gentleman around shoulder length and was one of many personal portraits completed by El Greco through his career.

The subject himself is unknown, and the wide date attributed to this piece suggests that relatively little is known about it. We do know that it was on display at Madrid´s Alcázar Palace in the following century and that it would have been joined by a number of other paintings by this artist within the same building. Over time that collection would make its way to the Prado, allowing the general public to get to see it. The artist would sign the piece using Greek lettering, often to the right hand side and does the same within this artwork. The unknown figure wears a bright white ruff upon black clothing, with El Greco choosing a brown background which may have been influenced by his time in Venice. The portrait figure has a small, greying beard and a long, prominent nose. He looks slim, almost gaunt in his facial features, but El Greco often depicted his models in this manner. His hair is smartly styled, and continues the same ageing tones found on his beard.

Although the piece is not as famous as some of his other artworks, some consider this portrait to be amongst El Greco's finest, because of the combination of short and long brushstrokes in order to create a lifelike image. El Greco was still rooted within Italian influences during this period but was slowly starting to incorporate Spanish methods within his religious paintings. His approach for portraits may have been adapted to suit the tastes of each patron, and he continued to be slightly more traditional in how he put paintings in this genre together. According to the artist's movements between Crete, Italy and Spain, he is likely to have been in Toledo at the time that he produced this piece, meaning the subject is probably a local Spanish nobleman who was perhaps known to the artist or who held significant influence in order to be able to organise this portrait from the great master.

Visitors to the Prado Museum will be able to appreciate a good variety of the artist's work, with around forty artworks in total on show. This incredible venue is devoted to Spanish art history, but also features non-Spanish painters here such as El Greco. He enjoyed his time living in Toledo and worked closely with monarchs of that period, leaving an important legacy within the nation's history. He was also an important pan-European artist who was able to fuse together influences from different regions in a manner that was relatively rare at that time, with Venetian art also playing an important role in his development. He can be considered certainly the most famous Greek artist of all time and retains a great popularity with the public who approved of his expressive style.

An Elderly Gentleman in Detail El Greco