Portrait of a Trinitarian Father 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 of a Trinitarian Father is most likely to have been produced by a follower of El Greco, rather than the master himself. It has therefore been given a date estimate which includes after he had passed away.

Whilst many elements of this piece link to the style of El Greco, there are several others that diverge from his normal working practices. For example, the composition feels slightly more cramped in how the subject is fitted into the scene than with other items attributed to the artist. Normally more their torso would be included, as well as their clothing, where as this portrait places the Trinitarian Father much closer to the viewer. It is not impossible that this might have been requested by the patron at the time, but most likely it was simply a choice by the artist at the time purely for his own taste. The darkened nature of this setting, with some bright white features standing out was common within El Greco's portraits, though normally with thick ruffs for the high ranking members of Spanish society. This more humble approach perhaps suits the subject in question, who looks directly at us, with a confident demeanor. The subject's face is particularly slim, with a small beard just visible. His hair is smart but without being too overly groomed, again in keeping with his religious role.

This painting has been given an estimated date of circa 1600-1650. This wide range would suggest that there remains many questionmarks around its history. It is owned by the Prado Museum though not normally on display, again linking to their belief that it is most likely to have been produced by a follower of El Greco, probably after his death. There have been discussions on this piece about whether the subject here is a member of the Trinitarian or Dominican order. Evidence suggests that either could have been true, with the clothing consistent with both. Some historians have gone as far as to identify the model specifically as friar Juan Bautista Maíno, though there appears a lack of evidence to support this claim. Juan would join the Dominican order just before El Greco's death after previously being an artist himself, making this quite a possibility but there still remains a gap in evidence to support the view. Further research has also suggested, with some validity, that the artist here was working in the style of El Greco and his workshop, rather than being them himself - with some artistic flourishes not quite being in keeping with who they were trying to imitate.

There would become a fairly confused situation towards the end of the master's life when large amounts of work was being attributed to his name, even though he may not have served more than a supervisory role. His workshop would take on large amounts of work, including making copies of his original paintings and sometimes they might be passed off as being directly from his own hand in order to obtain a larger valuation. El Greco was particularly popular by this point and even the local religious institutions got caught up in the excitement. Many items that appeared during this period were heavily inspired by his work, perhaps loosely based on works he had already completed. His own assistants had also been trained to work in a certain manner to echo his own approach, and so few people would have been able to tell whether he had been involved or not. This situation continued even after his death, with Portrait of a Trinitarian Father possibly being produced by someone who followed his and his workshop's style from afar.