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Doménikos Theotokópoulos, called El Greco (Crete c. 1541-1614 Toledo) and Studio
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Doménikos Theotokópoulos, called El Greco (Crete c. 1541-1614 Toledo) and Studio

The Espolio

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, called El Greco (Crete c. 1541-1614 Toledo) and Studio
The Espolio
oil on panel, unframed
28 3/8 x 17 3/8 in. (72.1 x 44.2 cm.)
Marchese Girolamo Manfrin (d. 1802) and by descent through his son, Pietro (d. 1835), and daughter Giulio, wife of Marchese Giovanni Battista Plattis, to her children, Marchese Antonio Maria Platteis and Marchesa Bortolina Plattis, Palazzo Manfrin, Venice, until 1874, when acquired by
Carl Justi, Bonn (1834-1912).
Ludwig Justi, Potsdam, until circa 1930.
Mrs. Hugo Moser, New York, before 1962.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 2 July 1976, lot 8, as El Greco.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 16 May 1996, lot 17, as El Greco and Studio.
Catalogo dei quadri existenti nella galleria Manfrin in Venezia, 1856, no. 303, as Barocci.
C. Justi, Miscellaneen, 1908, vol. II, p. 233 (reproduces the present lot mistakenly as the prime version of the composition in the Toledo cathedral).
M.B. Cossío, El Greco, Madrid, 1908, pp. 36, 170-3, 188, fig. 28, as a replica.
A.L. Mayer, El Greco, Munich, 1926, no. 72a.
M. Legendre and A. Hartmann, El Greco, 1937, illustrated p. 204, as El Greco.
J. Camón Aznar, Dominico Greco, Madrid, 1950, nos. 147 and 149, fig. 81, as El Greco.
M.B. Cossío, Domenico Theotocopuli, Madrid, 1955, p. 36.
H. Wethey, El Greco and His School, Princeton, 1962, I, fig. 58; II, pp. 55-6, no. 82, as a workshop replica.
G. Manzini, L'opera completa del Greco, Milan, 1969, p. 97, no. 24e.
J. Gudiol, The Complete Paintings of El Greco, London, 1983, p. 343, no. 54, as El Greco, circa 1580-1585.
X. Bray, El Greco, exhibition catalogue, London, 2003, p. 125, under no. 21.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 1972-4, (lent by Mrs. Moser).
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VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price plus buyer's premium.
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Please note that this lot is sold framed.

Lot Essay

This panel would seem to be a collaborative version by El Greco and his workshop of one of the artist's most celebrated works, the Espolio or Disrobing of Christ, which measures 285 x 173 cm., and now hangs in the sacristy of Toledo Cathedral. Numerous versions and copies attest to the huge popularity of the composition. Of these, a version at Upton House (Bearsted Collection) and one formerly in the Contini-Bonacossi collection (Wethey, op. cit., nos. 80 and 81) have generally been accepted as fully autograph replicas, while that in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich has received a more guarded reception. Wethey listed the latter as El Greco and Workshop, and the present lot as 'a first-class replica by El Greco's workshop', nevertheless mooting the possibility that 'it might be argued that the small panel [the present lot] is El Greco's own study for the large Munich canvas. In 1996, Dr. William Jordan viewed the present panel and, noting that is it not inferior to the Munich version, considered it to be by El Greco with studio assistance. This year, another scholar working on the artist's oeuvre has suggested that the picture (that he also considers to be a collaborative work of the master and his studio), would have been intended as a modello to be kept in the studio to be shown to potential clients. Certainly passages that have been left relatively untouched by restoration reveal a level of quality that can be readily associated with the master.

Although not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, the moment of the disrobing of Christ, just before His Crucifixion, came to play a prominent role in medieval imagery of Christ's Passion. The Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus refers to Him being stripped of His garments and wrapped in a linen cloth, and a 14th century text known as Meditations on the Passion of Jesus Christ mentions the Three Maries (seen here at the lower left) and how Christ was pulled along by a rope (see Bray, loc. cit.).

The Manfrin Collection was formed by Marchese Girolamo Manfrin, who acquired the former Palazzo Venier, on the Cannaregio, Venice, in 1787, and brought more than 450 pictures on the advice of Pietro Edwards and Giovanni Battista Mignardi (see F. Haskell, Patrons and Painters, London, 1963, pp. 379-81). The Palazzo became one of the sights of Venice, and Byron, among others, visited the collection. This began to be dispersed in, or soon after, 1851, a final auction taking place in 1897. Edwards in particular was an excellent connoisseur and many of the Venetian pictures were correctly attributed, although Giorgione's Tempesta was overlooked until Buckhardt recognised this in 1855. Justi, who became the first serious German historian of Spanish art had made his first visit to Spain in 1872, two years before his acquisition of this picture.

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