Portrait of Giulio Clovio 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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Giulio Clovio was a Croatian-born miniaturist, which involved the production of very small, carefully detailed artworks. He was amongst the most respected artists in that niche and was captured here within a portrait by El Greco in around 1571.

El Greco was very much under the influence of Italian art at this point in his career. It would not be for another six years that he would move to Spain. The portrait in front of us here was of a normal size for his work in this genre, at 86cm wide and 58cm tall. The artist, Clovio, is placed within the centre of the composition and holds a book in one hand, whilst pointing at it with his other hand. He is dressed in black clothing, with a white shirt collar just showing through at the top. The book itself perhaps contains maps, or certainly pictures of some sort, which must have a symbolic meaning of some sort. Giulio Clovio is of an elderly age here, with a heavily wrinkled forehead and white hair. His beard is bushy and suggests at the colours of his younger years with elements of darker tones at the back, below his ears. Behind the subject we find an open window which reveals a landscape scene, and in conjunction with the book content, there seems to be a connection to the great outdoors being made within this piece.

In fact, research has suggested that the book shown here is actually Libro d'Ore della Vergine, which was written by Clovio himself. This title translates as the Hours of the Virgin and is considered to be his most famous publication. Clovio was known to the artist, and also welcomed him to Rome, helping him to settle in. This painting would later be sold on and the new owner relocated to Naples - which is where it resides today. This piece represents El Greco's time in Italy which is not as commonly discussed as his time in Spain is, making this an important contribution for helping us to understand more about his formative years as an artist, prior to arriving in Spain in around 1577. By then he had already mastered his technical work, but was ready for stylistic developments which occurred naturally after his relocation.

This portrait can today be found at the Museo nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples in Italy. They specialise in Italian art from the Renaissance era and feature a number of other masters within their permanent collection. Danae by Titian, c. 1545 can be found here, for example, as can Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine by Correggio and also Crucifixion by Masaccio. In truth, most major figures from the Italian Renaissance can be found represented here, making it one of the best collections in the country for this important and influential artistic period. El Greco himself is a worthwhile addition here, not least because of how he took inspiration from Titian into his own work. His childhood was spent in Crete, a part of Greece which was actually under the rule of Venice at that time. He would fuse Italian and Spanish influences from different periods in his life to arrive at the evolved approach that he used in the last few decades of his life.