Colnaghi Collections_Vol 01 - Page 125

Crete, 1541 – Toledo, 1614
Portrait of a Woman
Oil on vellum
29 x 25.3 cm
This miniature portrait presents a scaled-down version of a signed,
Private Collection, Spain
autograph work formerly in the collection of Viscount Rothermere
at Warwick House (ca. 1595-1600, 50 x 42 cm, New York, Private
Collection) (fig. 16.1).1 Although El Greco was a superb and
Leticia Ruiz Gómez, “Domenico Greco y la piccola
highly sought-after portraitist, female portraits by the artist are
pittura,” ARBOR Ciencia, Pensamiento y Cultura 191 (2015):
exceedingly rare. As was common in his portraits both of men and
pp. 11-12.
women, the artist places his sitter before a dark background, which
highlights the fine details of the rich yet sombre costume. El Greco
uses this same device in one of his few extant female portraits
now at Pollok House in Glasgow (ca. 1570-1580) (fig. 16.2). The
present work is later in date and exhibits broader handling (despite
its small scale and vellum support) characteristic of El Greco’s
mature oeuvre. Nevertheless the miniature exhibits a similar
delight in the portrayal of lavish costume details, dramatically
depicted using a restricted palette of pale tones of white and silvery
grey offset with shades of brown and black. In both portraits the
sitter’s gaze is direct and engages the viewer, while the expression
of the woman with the floral headdress is somewhat softer and
more placid. As in the Glasgow portrait, the sitter’s features are at
once individualized and idealized.
A generic resemblance between this sitter and certain of El
Greco’s Madonnas has in the past led to the identification of the
woman as Jerónima de la Cuevas, the artist’s mistress. Likewise,
she has been compared to the central figure in the painting known
as The Family of El Greco (fig. 16.3), now Real Academia de Bellas


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