Greco, Art Institute, Chicago
Fig. 2 / Domenico
Theotokopoulos, known
as El Greco, The Modena
Tryptich (front panels), 1568,
tempera on panel, 37 x 23.8
cm (central panel), 24 x 18
cm (side panels), Modena,
Galleria Estense.
Fig. 3 / Domenico
Theotokopoulos, known
as El Greco, Portrait of an
Architect, 1575, oil on canvas,
116 x 98 cm, Copenhagen,
National Gallery of Denmark.
of evidence for this dating is G.B. Fontana’s View of
Mount Sinai print of 1569. By that point, Greco had
been in Italy for two or three years and had just moved
to Rome. This is also the rational conclusion if one
keeps in mind that Greco, who had to make a living
(as pointed out in Keith Christiansen’s essay in the
catalogue), still operated within so-called “VenetianGreek Mannerism” along with other Cretans such
as Michael Damaskenos and Giorgios Klontzas
who produced small panels for private devotion.
Furthermore, he was presented to the Palazzo
Farnese by fellow miniaturist Guilio Clovio (who
enthusiastically boasted that Greco was a student of
Titian and an able portraitist, both qualities apparently
essential for entry into the Palazzo). There Greco
executed, in 1572 at the latest, an almost identical
but larger panel of Mount Sinai (Herakleion, Crete,
Historical Museum) for Fulvio Orsini. The landscape
in this work, not exhibited by the curators, has strong
affinities with Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata from
Bergamo (cat. 11), which does appear in the exhibition.
Returning to the Modena Triptych, the oriental-Ottoman
figures (five turbaned heads and one shaved, which can
be discerned with the aid of a magnifying glass inside
the open mouth of the infernal beast in the lower right
Greco, Art Institute, Chicago
corner of the central Allegory of the Christian Knight)
must, in my view, refer to the triumph of Lepanto in
October 1571. This therefore points to a Roman dating
(in the early 1570s) and not to a Venetian one. Further
evidence for this comes from the three figures standing
in front of the mouth (the renowned leaders of the
Holy League): one of them is a brown-bearded noble
in full black western armour (Philip II); another, in
red robes with white hair and beard; and the third an
adaptation of a 1555 print-motif resembling Don Juan
with his characteristic round shield, feathered helmet
and golden breastplate. These figures are assisted by
three judging demons with spears and two female
Christian virtues, with a third female representing Faith
in the foreground, gazing at them.
Before moving to the Portraits’ section and second
part of the exhibition, the visitor is reminded that
El Greco’s “practice of small-format painting on
wood seems to come to an end in the first years of
his arrival in Spain”. A characteristic example of
this small-format painting is the small Adoration of
the Name of Jesus known also as the Dream of Philip II,
which might more accurately be called “The Allegory
of the Holy League”, as Anthony Blunt showed in
1939, due to the presence of the Venetian doge, the


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