Thursday, May 10, 2007

El Greco: Portrait of a Lady

GRECO, El (b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
A Lady in a Fur Wrap
Oil on canvas, 62 x 59 cm
Pollock House, Glasgow

One of the finest and most important works in the possession of the Glasgow Museums.

It sits in the library of Pollok House, an elegant 18th century mansion which was home of the Stirling Maxwell family of Pollock. The painting was acquired by Sir William Stirling Maxwell (1818-1878), who was an expert on Spanish art and history.

It has been the subject of much discussion as regards both the identity of the sitter and indeed the identity of the painter.

It is a striking image of a dark-eyed, full-lipped, fur-clad woman with tightly curled black hair.

Some critics have concluded that this is a portrait of Jerónima de las Cuevas, El Greco`s life-long companion in Spain, and the mother of his son, Jorge Manuel.

Doña Jerónima de Las Cuevas appears to have outlived El Greco, and, although the master acknowledged both her and his son, he never married her. That fact has puzzled researchers, because he mentioned her in various documents, including his last testament. Most analysts assume that El Greco had married unhappily in his youth and therefore could not legalise another attachment

The painting is informal. Note the lynx fur. The dark tafts have been cleverly arranged so that they seem to splay out from the sitter, thereby enhancing her.

Cézanne copied the painting in 1879-80. The copy is in the Pellerin collection, Paris.