Tuesday, February 20, 2007

El Greco: Portrait of Cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera

(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
Portrait of Cardinal Juan Pardo de Tavera (1472-1545)
Oil on canvas, 103 x 83 cm
Hospital Tavera, Toledo

Juan Pardo de Tavera (1472-1545) held both important ecclesiastical and political offices under Charles V, being active among other things as Grand Inquisitor and government chief of Castile.

The portrait was commissioned by Pedro Salazar de Mendoza, an important figure in Toledo's religious life, and the administrator of the Hospital de San Juan Bautista (orphanage), which had been founded by the Cardinal.

El Greco had nevermet the Cardinal before his death. The Cardinal was long dead at the time of the painting. El Greco would have had to rely on the Cardinal`s death mask and effigy on the tomb (see below) for an idea of what the Cardinal looked like.

Perhaps that explains the lack of characterisation and vivacity in the portrait.

A life of the cardinal is at

Tomb of Cardinal Tavera 1554-1556
Hospital de San-Juan-Bautista, Toledo