Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609)

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) Greek

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 619

Niño de Guevara (1541–1609) was named cardinal in 1596 and appointed Inquisitor General of Spain by Philip III in 1599. In spring 1600 he spent several weeks in Toledo with members of the Madrid court, including his nephew, Pedro Lasso de la Vega, count of Los Arcos and majordomo to the queen. The cardinal’s portrait was probably painted on that occasion, most likely to display along with other family and court portraits in Arcos’s Madrid home.

Partly inspired by Titian, El Greco treated portraiture as an exploration of character. The restless pose, wary glance, and disjointed setting in this picture suggest a psychological drama in which one misstep could be a matter of life and death (implied by the hands). Modern painters such as Beckmann, Kokoschka, and Picasso were impressed by the portrait, used as the frontispiece in the first book on El Greco.

Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609), El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek, Iráklion (Candia) 1541–1614 Toledo), Oil on canvas

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