Portrait of Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli 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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Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli was artist El Greco's son and the two worked together on a number of paintings. In this piece the son becomes subject, with this artwork completed in around 1597-1603. It resides today at the Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville.

As was the way during the Renaissance and Baroque periods, the subject indicates his own occupation through the inclusion of various clues. In this case Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli holds an easel and several brushes, underlining his role as a supporting artist to his father's career. Historians have uncovered a number of paintings in which El Greco received aid from his studio, which became more necessary as his reputation rose. Commissions came in fairly regularly and the artist alone was not able to keep up with these demands. It was very common for family members to become involved in an artist's studio, and there are good examples within the Bruegel family, for example. Jorge stares directly at us in this fairly simple portrait, with his large ruff being the most memorable element of this piece. The artist darkens the background, leaving only the young man visible, and even his only clothing generally merges with the background. Strong light is directed on his face, as well as the white elements of his clothing, around his neck and wrists.

This painting is believed to have been completed in Toledo, and so the artist would have been very comfortable here having moved to Spain in around 1577. He by now had taken in influences from Spain and Italy, and managed to merge them together to produce a successful formula, though with the addition of his own innovations and expressive nature. This portrait feels relatively restrained by El Greco's standards, and often he would leave his dramatic scenes for the religious content which can be found elsewhere in his career. The artwork is relatively small, at around 74cm in height, by 51.5cm in width. With relatively little detail in comparison to his monumental religious scenes, the artist clearly chose a smaller canvas for this portrait. It may even have been intended as a gift for his son, and therefore a larger scale would not have been appropriate. Initially, some actually deemed this to be a self portrait, but the age of the subject never aligned with the approximate date of the painting (the son would have been in his early to mid twenties by the time this portrait was made, where as El Greco would have been around sixty).

A further artwork, Virgin of Charity, features the son again just a few years later and this is partly how historians correctly identified him here. It is a portrait which places his son in a good light, as both handsome and particularly well dressed, giving us an indication of the pride that El Greco had for his son. It is generally accepted that although Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli was trained to a high level by his father, he never had the same levels of flair and so would remain very much a studio artist. The portrait places the son as a painter and also a man of high status, almost part of the aristocracy, and this was not really the case during that period, leaving something of an inconsistency within this portrait as compared to society as a whole. That would change in later centuries, though, when the finest artists would enjoy a particularly high social status for the first time.