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Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco (1541-1614)

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco (1541-1614)

Portrait of a young Lady, bust length, wearing a black dress with a white lace collar and headdress and a flower in her hair

signed 'doménikos theotokópolis e'poíei' (in cursive Greek)
19 7/8 x 16½in. (50.5 x 42cm.)
General the Hon. John Meade, Consul General at Madrid; (+) Christie's, 8 March 1851 (= 3rd day), lot 284, 'Gecco - The daughter of Domenico Gecco, with an inscription' (with lot 285, a Lucretia given to Cranach: 3 gns. to Sharpe)
Sir William Stirling-Maxwell, 9th Bt. (1818-1878), and by descent at Keir, Scotland
Viscount Rothermere, Warwick House, London, by whom acquired in 1957, and by descent
M. B. Cossío, El Greco, Madrid, 1908, I, pp. 397-8, no. 339, and II, pl. 118
A. de Beruete y Moret, El Greco, pintor de retratos, Toledo, 1914, pp. 20-1
J. R. Mélida, El arte antiguo y El Greco, Boletín de la Sociedad Española de Excursiones, 23, June 1915, illustrated opposite p. 98
A. L. Mayer, El Greco, Berlin, 1931, no. 352
M. Legendre and A. Hartmann, Domenico Theotokopoulos called El Greco, Paris, 1937, p. 77
L. Goldscheider, El Greco, London, 1938, pl. 188; 2nd ed., London, 1949, p. 19 and pl. 88
F. J. Sánchez Cantón, La mujer en los cuadros del Greco, Escorial, Revista de Cultura y Letras, I, 1942, p. 28
M. Gómez Moreno, El Greco (Domenico Theotocópuli), Barcelona, 1943, p. 106 and pl. XXXIII
J. Camón Aznar, Dominico Greco, Madrid, 1950, pp. 1080-4, no. 717, and fig. 847
P. Guinard, El Greco: A Biographical and Critical Study, Barcelona and New York, 1956, p. 66
G. Marañón, El Greco y Toledo, Madrid, 1956, pp. 53 and 57, fig. 8
H. Soehner, Greco in Spanien, I, Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 3rd series, VIII, 1957, pp. 153 and 167
J. A. Gaya Nuño, La pintura española fuera de España, Madrid, 1958, no. 1316
H. E. Wethey, El Greco and his School, Princeton, 1962, I, fig. 322, and II, pp. 92-3, no. 147: 'The extraordinary white headdress, the white ruff collar, and the white guimpe are very freely painted in an illusionistic manner ... The dignified Spanish face with slightly red lips seems not to have been retouched'
T. Frati, L'opera completa del Greco, Milan, 1969, no. 81, illustrated
E. Lafuente Ferrari and J. M. Pita Andrade, El Greco di Toledo e il suo espressionismo estremo, Milan, 1969; translated as El Greco: The Expressionism of the Final Years, New York, 1972, pp. 69-70 and 88, note 90
J. Camón Aznar, Dominico Greco, 2nd ed., Madrid, 1970, II, pp. 1082-3 and 1378, no. 709, and fig. 929: 'En la producción del Greco, tan escasa en retratos femeninos, tiene este pequeño lienzo una gran importancia por la emoción y la tierna intimidad con que está tratado ... Es éste uno de los retratos femeninos de más directa simpatía, de una más espiritual belleza de cuantos ha creado el arte'
M. B. Cossío, Dominico Theotocopuli El Greco, ed. N. Cossío de Jiménez, Barcelona, 1972, no. 356
J. Gudiol, Doménikos Theotokopoulos: El Greco 1541-1614, London/New York, 1973, pp. 251 and 354, no. 216, and fig. 232
A. Vázquez-Campo, El Divino Greco, Madrid, 1974, p. 243
El Greco: Works in Spain, ed. N. Hadjinicolaou, Rethymno, 1990, pp. 77-9, 395 and 402 (reprinting a relevant part of Cossío, op. cit., 1908, and the whole of Soehner, op. cit.)
Edinburgh, Spanish Paintings, 1951, no. 13
Madrid, Museo del Prado, 1 April-6 June 1982, Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 2 July-6 Sept. 1982, Toledo, Ohio, Toledo Museum of Arts, 26 Sept.-21 Nov. 1982, and Dallas, Texas, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 12 Dec. 1982-6 Feb. 1983, El Greco of Toledo, p. 260, no. 60, illustrated, and p. 221, colour pl. 71

Lot Essay

While Mayer dated the present picture to 1582-90 and Professor Ellis Waterhouse (in the catalogue of the 1951 exhibition) proposed a date in the late 1580s, other writers have favoured the 1590s. Goldscheider's dating of c.1592 is still considered too early by Soehner and Wethey, who follow Cossío in placing the painting in the second half of the decade. Professor William B. Jordan (in the catalogue of the 1982-3 exhibition) gives a less specific dating in the 1590s, while pointing out the artist's considerable stylistic development from the well-known Lady in a Fur Wrap at Pollok House, Glasgow (also from the Stirling-Maxwell Collection), which he dates c.1577-8: 'The subtle modeling of the face and the illusionistic treatment of the fur in the earlier painting are replaced here by a much broader indication of forms. The crumbly white brushstrokes suggesting the lace guimpe are similar to those that describe the diaphanous veil of Saint Agnes in the Madonna and Child with Saint Martina and Saint Agnes [in the National Gallery of Art, Washington; also included in the 1982-3 exhibition, no. 31 and colour pl. 49, where dated c.1597-9]. In both portraits, the sitters wear necklaces. In the present example, the depiction of the necklace through the overlaid lace is a tour de force that reveals the artist's fresh response to visual stimuli.'

The sitter's identity has given rise to much speculation. Sánchez Canton thought that she might be Alfonsa de los Morales, the first wife of the artist's son Jorge Manuel, whom he also believed to be the young woman embroidering in the anonymous group portrait often identified as representing members of El Greco's family, which was sold by the Lord's New Church, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, in these Rooms on 9 July 1976, lot 163, and is now in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid (and included in the El Greco exhibition at the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 18 Oct.-14 Dec. 1986, p. 213, no. 49, illustrated in colour p. 169). Camón Aznar and Gudiol repeated this suggestion, the latter pointing out that if it is correct, the picture is unlikely to have been painted much before about 1603 when the couple were married. Goldscheider suggested that the sitter may have posed for the Madonna of Charity at Illescas and Lafuente thought that she resembles several El Greco Madonnas. While Beruete considered her of less than aristocratic status, Vázquez-Campo claimed that she was the Infanta Catalina Micaele, daughter of Philip II. However, as Professor Jordan points out (in the 1982-3 exhibition catalogue, loc. cit.), there is no evidence at all as to her identity.

Regrettably little is known about the first recorded owner of the present picture, John Meade (d. 1849), the third son of John, 1st Earl of Clanwilliam. He presumably made most of his acquisitions during his years as Consul General at Madrid, a post from which he had retired when what purported to be the whole of his 'very choice and interesting collection of Pictures, chiefly of the Spanish School' was sold in these Rooms in 65 lots on 26 June 1847. He was still in Madrid at the time of his death two years later (see The Gentleman's Magazine, 33, 1849, ii, pp. 420-1) and what turned out to be the bulk of his collection was sold in these Rooms in 397 lots on 6-8 March 1851, described as a 'Very Important and Extensive Collection of Pictures ... comprising a large Collection of the Works of the Early Italian Masters, and interesting Works of the Spanish School, including many Portraits and Productions of masters but little known in this Country'. Curtis observed that 'his cabinet contained some genuine and valuable specimens of the Spanish masters; but owing to the jealousy with which he had always guarded them, they were but little known, and sold for insignificant prices' (C. B. Curtis, Velázquez and Murillo, London and New York, 1883, p. 9, under no. 14a). They included the painting of a red and white papillon by José Antolínez sold in these Rooms on 14 December 1990, lot 44, a pair of landscapes with figures given to Velázquez (one now at Pollok House, Glasgow, the other offered at Sotheby's, 3 July 1963, lot 68), a pair of Iriarte landscapes also formerly in the Stirling-Maxwell Collection and, almost certainly, the copy in the Wallace Collection of Velázquez's Vienna Portrait of the Infanta Margarita.

For the activities of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell as a collector of - and writer on - Spanish art, see the catalogue of the sale in these Rooms, 14 December 1990, p. 66


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