Portrait of a Man

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (Greek, Iráklion (Candia) 1540/41–1614 Toledo)

ca. 1590–1600
Oil on canvas
20 3/4 x 18 3/8 in. (52.7 x 46.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1924
Accession Number:
  • Gallery Label

    For a long time this painting has enjoyed considerable fame as a self-portrait. Although there are no certain images of the artist, he seems to have included his features in some of his altarpieces. The portrait is generally dated to when El Greco would have been in his mid- to late fifties, but the sitter has also been identified with the painter’s brother, Manusos.

  • Catalogue Entry

    When in the collection of Don Aureliano de Beruete in Madrid, this fine but somewhat worn picture was identified as a self-portrait. Yet, as Lafond (1906) noted, the identification is only a plausible hypothesis and based merely on the sitter's resemblance to other figures in El Greco's paintings that have also been thought to record the artist's features. Although there are no certified portraits of the artist, what must be his likeness appears in a number of altarpieces (see Christiansen 2004 for a visual survey of these). Álvarez Lopera (2004) has suggested that the painting represents El Greco's brother, Manusos.

    The portrait is generally dated to about 1595–1600 (a date supported by the width of the ruff the sitter wears), when El Greco was in his mid- to late fifties.

    The canvas has been trimmed on all sides. The signature on the painting at the time it was first published proved to be false and was removed in 1947; an added strip of canvas at the bottom was folded under in 1974.

    [2011; adapted from Christiansen et al. 2003]

  • Provenance

    Marqués de Heredia, Arteche, Madrid (by 1892); Aureliano de Beruete y Moret, Madrid (1892–1924)

  • Exhibition History

    Madrid. Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura. "Exposición de las obras de Domenico Theotocopuli, llamado El Greco," 1902, no. 3 (as Portrait of El Greco, lent by Aurlieano [sic] de Beruete).

    London. Grafton Galleries. "Exhibition of Spanish Old Masters," October 1913–January 1914, no. 127 (as "Portrait of the Artist," lent by A. de Beruete y Moret).

    London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Exhibition of Spanish Paintings," November 1920–January 1921, no. 36 (as "Portrait of the Artist," lent by Aureliano de Beruete, Madrid).

    Hempstead, N.Y. Hofstra College. "Metropolitan Museum Masterpieces," June 26–September 1, 1952, no. 26.

    University of California at Los Angeles. "Spanish Masters," January 24–March 6, 1960, no catalogue.

    Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. "Spanish Masters," March 25–May 1, 1960, no catalogue.

    Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 27.

    Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 27.

    Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 3.

    Madrid. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. "El Greco: Identity and Transformation. Crete. Italy. Spain," February 3–May 16, 1999, no. 57.

    Rome. Palazzo delle Esposizioni. "El Greco: Identità e trasformazione. Creta. Italia. Spagna," June 2–September 19, 1999, no. 57.

    Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "El Greco: Identity and Transformation. Crete. Italy. Spain," October 18, 1999–January 17, 2000, no. 57.

    Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. "El Greco," May 4–September 2, 2001, no. 30.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "El Greco," October 7, 2003–January 11, 2004, no. 75.

    London. National Gallery. "El Greco," February 11–May 23, 2004, no. 75.

    New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History," November 17, 2006–March 28, 2007, unnumbered cat.

    Barcelona. Museu Picasso. "Picasso versus Rusiñol," May 27–September 5, 2010, unnumbered cat.

  • References

    Salvador Sanpere y Miguel. "Domenikos Theotokopoulos." Revista de la Asociación-Artístico-Arqueológica-Barcelonesa 4 (March–April 1900), pp. 394–95, ill., as a self-portrait by El Greco in the collection of Aureliano Beruete.

    Miguel Utrillo. "Le Greco." L'art et les artistes 1 (April–September 1905), p. 207, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Paul Lafond. "Domenikos Theotokopuli, dit Le Greco." Les arts 5 (October 1906), pp. 28, 30, ill., observes that there is no proof that this is a self-portrait, calling this identification of the sitter "no more than a plausible hypothesis".

    Ludwig Zottmann. "Zur Kunst von 'El Greco'." Die christliche Kunst 3 (1906–07), p. 234, as a self-portrait.

    Rafael Domenech. "Aureliano de Beruete." Forma 2 (1907), pp. 165, 174, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Manuel B. Cossío. El Greco. Madrid, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 36, 417, 566, no. 89; vol. 2, pls. 1, 117 (overall and detail), hesitates to identify it as a self-portrait; adds to the provenance, dates it between 1594–1604 and notes that it is signed [falsely].

    Carl Justi. Miscellaneen aus drei Jahrhunderten spanischen Kunstlebens. Berlin, 1908, vol. 2, p. 201, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Albert F. Calvert and C. Gasquoine Hartley. El Greco: An Account of His Life and Works. London, 1909, pp. 139, pl. 24, observe that "this startling, strong, yet refined face, is what we would expect El Greco to be"; date it on the basis of style "to the years immediately before the last period" of El Greco.

    Maurice Barrès and Paul Lafond. Le Greco. Paris, [1911], pp. 28, 179, as probably a self-portrait.

    Emile Bertaux. "Notes sur Le Greco." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 29 (January–June 1911), pp. 409–11, ill., illustrates it as "Portrait d'Inconnu" and doubts it is a self-portrait.

    August L. Mayer. El Greco: Eine Enführung in das Leben und Wirken des Domenico Theotocopuli gennant El Greco. Munich, 1911, pp. 2, 22, 86, ill. (frontispiece), as "Self-portrait (?)"; dates it about 1610.

    Maurice Barrès. Greco, ou le secret de Tolède. Paris, 1912, p. 38, as a self-portrait.

    Paul Lafond. Le Greco. Paris, 1913, pp. 100, IX, pl. 1 (frontispiece), as probably a self-portrait.

    A. de Beruete y Moret. El Greco, pintor de retratos: Conferencia dada en Toledo en ocasión del III centenario del Greco, Abril 1914. [Madrid], 1914, p. 24, ill. (frontispiece), as a self-portrait.

    Hugo Kehrer. Die Kunst des Greco. Munich, 1914, p. 19, pl. 5, as a self-portrait.

    Exhibition of Spanish Paintings. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1920, pp. 28–29, no. 36; plate vol., pl. 36.

    Max Dvorák. "Über Greco und den Manierismus." Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 1 (1921–22), p. 35, fig. 10.

    August L. Mayer. Geschichte der spanischen Malerei. Leipzig, 1922, pp. 246–47, 255, fig. 179, as a self-portrait from the last years of his life.

    A. de Beruete y Moret. Conferencias de arte. Madrid, 1924, p. 122, ill. opp. p. 122, as a self-portrait.

    Bryson Burroughs. "Le nouveau Greco du Metropolitan Museum." Bulletin de l'art no. 721 (September–October 1925), pp. 269–72.

    Bryson Burroughs. "A Portrait by El Greco." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 20 (May 1925), pp. 122-24, ill. (cover), notes that the sitter for this portrait appears in several others works by El Greco including: "The Disrobing of Christ" [Cathedral, Toledo], "The Martyrdom of Saint Maurice and the Theban Legion" [El Escorial], and "The Burial of the Count of Orgaz" [Santo Tomé, Toledo]; reproduces a [false] signature; tends to see it as a self-portrait; dates it about 1600.

    Dimand. "Neuerwerbungen des Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." Kunstchronik und Kunstmarkt, n.s., 35 (April 1925–March 1926), pp. 281–82, ill., as a self-portrait; dates it about 1600.

    [F. J.] S. [Sánchez] C. [Cantón]. "El autoretrato del Greco de la colección Beruete." Archivo español de arte y arqueología 1 (1925), p. 228.

    Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. El Greco. New York, 1925, pp. x, 50–52, 148, pl. XI (frontispiece), calls it "Portrait of an Old Man", noting that there is no evidence for its being a self-portrait.

    August L. Mayer. Dominico Theotocopuli, El Greco. Munich, 1926, pp. xviii, 52, no. 329, pl. 90, identifies it as no. 189 in inventory B (Jorge Manuel's 1621 inventory), "un retrato de mi padre"; dates it around 1609.

    Julius Meier-Graefe. The Spanish Journey. London, 1926, p. 53, as a "so-called self-portrait".

    F. de B. San Román. "De la vida del Greco (Nueva serie de documentos inéditos)." Archivo español de arte y arqueología 3 (1927), p. 303, as with all probability the portrait listed as no. 189 in Jorge Manuel's 1621 inventory: "un retrato de mi P[adr]e, con su quadro guarnecido".

    Malcolm Vaughan. "Portraits by El Greco in America." International Studio 86 (March 1927), pp. 28, 30, 102, ill., dates it about 1600; notes that it is generally considered a self-portrait, although "no actual evidence exists".

    Emilio H. del Villar. El Greco en España. Madrid, 1928, pp. 40, 139–40, pl. 31, as a supposed self-portrait.

    Frank Gray Griswold. El Greco. 1930, pp. 50, 78, pl. 18 (frontispiece), as a supposed self-portrait; dates it 1594–1604.

    Frank Rutter. El Greco (1541–1614). New York, [1930], pp. 66, 94, no. 53, pl. 2, as "Portrait of the Artist (?)"; dates it 1600–1608.

    August L. Mayer. El Greco. Berlin, 1931, p. 12, fig. 1, dates it 1605–08 at the latest.

    Raymond Escholier. Greco. Paris, 1937, p. 161, ill. (detail, cover), as a self-portrait.

    M. Legendre and A. Hartmann. Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. Paris, 1937, pp. 32–33, 504, ill., as a self-portrait; dates it "circa 1609–1594–1604".

    Ludwig Goldscheider. El Greco. London, 1938, ill. p. 21 and pl. 194, as "Self-portrait (?)"; dates it about 1609.

    Hugo Kehrer. Greco als Gestalt des Manierismus. Munich, 1939, p. 83, as a self-portrait.

    H. Vollmer in Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. 33, Leipzig, 1939, p. 4, as a "visionary self-portrait".

    Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 229–30, ill., as "Portrait of a Man (Perhaps the artist)"; observes that there is no evidence connecting this portrait with the "portrait of my father" in Jorge Manuel's 1621 inventory; notes that the workmanship is that of El Greco's late period.

    Kurt Pfister. El Greco. Zürich, 1941, pp. 109, 112, 150, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Ignacio de Beryes. Domenicos Theotocopoulos, El Greco. Barcelona, [1944?], pp. 18, 20, as a self-portrait.

    Jean Babelon. El Greco. Paris, 1946, pp. 37, 95, ill., as a self-portrait; dates it about 1609.

    Anthony Bertram. El Greco. London, 1949, pp. 5, 14, ill., as "Self-portrait (?)"; dates it about 1609.

    Leo Bronstein. El Greco. New York, 1950, pp. 98–99, ill. (color), as "Self-portrait (?)".

    José Camón Aznar. Dominico Greco. Madrid, 1950, vol. 1, p. 192; vol. 2, pp. 1108–10, 1393, no. 733, fig. 866, as "Portrait of an Old Man", not likely to be a self-portrait; dates it about 1590–1600.

    John F. Matthews. El Greco (Domenicos Theotocopoulos), (1541–1614). New York, 1953, unpaginated, pl. 1, colorpl. 29 (overall and detail), as "Self-Portrait (?)"; dates it about 1604; notes the similarity between the sitter in this portrait and the figure in "Saint Luke" [Toledo Cathedral].

    Ludwig Goldscheider. El Greco: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. 3rd ed. London, 1954, p. 17, pl. 141, as "Self-Portrait of the Artist"; dates it about 1604.

    Manuel B. Cossío with the assistance of Natalia Cossío de Jiménez in Dominico Theotocopuli, El Greco. Oxford, 1955, p. 13, no. 38, pl. 38, as "Portrait of an Old Man".

    Antonina Vallentin. El Greco. Garden City, N.Y., 1955, p. 251, pl. 84.

    Ruth M. Anderson. Letter. 1956, [the author was the Curator of Costume, Hispanic Society, New York] discusses sumptuary laws passed in Spain in 1586 and 1593 regarding men's ruffs; lists several portraits dated between 1586 and 1598 in which ruffs are worn that are similar to the one worn here.

    Paul Guinard. El Greco: Biographical and Critical Study. [Lausanne?], [1956], pp. 30–31, ill. (color), as "Presumed Self-portrait"; dates it 1605–10.

    G. Marañón. El Greco y Toledo. Madrid, 1956, p. 282, as a self-portrait, certainly identifiable with the one listed in Jorge Manuel's 1621 inventory.

    Halldor Soehner. "Greco in Spanien." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 3rd ser., 8 (1957), p. 167, as "Portrait of an Old Man"; dates it 1596–99.

    Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 206, no. 1420, as a self-portrait of about 1609.

    Karl Ipser. El Greco, der Maler des christlichen Weltbildes. Braunschweig, 1960, pp. 172–76, ill., as "Portrait of an Unknown Man"; dates it after 1600.

    Hugo Kehrer. Greco in Toledo: Höhe und Vollendung, 1577–1614. Stuttgart, 1960, pp. 87–89, pl. 89, as a self-portrait.

    Gerald Eager. "The Missing and the Mutilated Eye in Contemporary Art." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20 (Fall 1961), p. 54, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Pál Kelemen. El Greco Revisited: Candia, Venice, Toledo. New York, 1961, p. 138, pl. 94B, as perhaps a self-portrait.

    Harold E. Wethey. El Greco and His School. Princeton, 1962, vol. 1, fig. 330; vol. 2, pp. 96–97, no. 156, dates it 1595–1600 and catalogues it as "Self-portrait (so-called)," observing that the sitter does not resemble other possible portraits of the painter [i.e. in the "Christ Healing the Blind," Parma, and in Jorge Manuel's "Marytrdom of Saint Maurice," private collection, Paris].

    Georg J. Reimann. El Greco. Leipzig, 1966, pp. 66, 68, 77, pl. 68, as a self-portrait; dates it 1605–08.

    Tiziana Frati. L'opera completa del Greco. Milan, 1969, p. 111, no. 108, ill., as a self-portrait (?); dates it about 1590–1600.

    Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. El Greco: The Expressionism of His Final Years. New York, 1969, pp. 63, 68–69, ill., as "Portrait of a Man (perhaps the artist)"; dates it about 1590–95.

    Calvin Tomkins. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, p. 233 [rev., enl. ed., 1989].

    Manuel B. Cossío. El Greco. definitive ed. Barcelona, 1972, pp. 18–19, 248, 250, 393, no. 353, ill., fig. 95 (overall and detail), as "Portrait of an Old Man"; dates it 1594–1604; states incorrectly that it was "sold to the United States in 1902".

    José Gudiol. El Greco, 1541–1614. New York, 1973, pp. 112, 113, 344, no. 73, ill. (detail), as "Head of an Old Man"; suggests the sitter was of Jewish origin; dates it 1579–86.

    Jacques Lassaigne. El Greco. London, 1973, pp. 197–98, ill., as "Portrait of an Elderly Gentleman (Self-portrait?)"; dates it 1590–1600.

    Kazimierz Zawanowski. El Greco. Warsaw, 1979, unpaginated, no. 22, ill., dates it about 1605–10 (?).

    Katharine Baetjer. "El Greco." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 39 (Summer 1981), pp. 39–41, ill. (color), notes that "when the picture was thought to represent El Greco, it was dated about 1600, but it is now believed to have been painted some ten to fifteen years earlier".

    René Huyghe. "Art et littérature. L'Esthétique de Barrès et Greco." Bulletin des Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique 34–37 (1985–88), p. 332, ill., as a self-portrait.

    Deborah Krohn et al. in From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1992, pp. 12, 36–37, no. 3, ill. (color), dates it about 1590; suggests the sitter may have been a relative, commenting on his resemblance to Jorge Manuel, El Greco's son.

    José Álvarez Lopera. El Greco: La obra esencial. [Madrid], [1993], pp. 231, 291, no. 251, as "Portrait of an Old Man"; dates it 1597–1607.

    Fernando Marías. "Reflexiones sobre una colección de pinturas de El Greco y la "Gloria de Felipe II"." Anuario del Departamento de Historia y Teoría del Arte 5 (1993), pp. 61, 62, 70, ill., identifies it as no. 258 in the second inventory: "Un retrato del Griego de sí mismo y de su mano (retrato de medio cuerpo del Griego original de sí mismo), 300 reales".

    José Álvarez Lopera in El Greco in Italy and Italian Art. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1995, pp. 177, 453, ill. (color), calls it the "mistakenly presumed self-portrait".

    Ludmilla Kagané. "Las ideas del humanismo cristiano en el "San Pedro y San Pablo" del Greco del Museo del Ermitage." El Greco of Crete: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth. Iráklion, Crete, 1995, pp. 293–94, ill., notes the similarity between this portrait and El Greco's paintings of "Saint Paul" (Private collection, Madrid) and "Saints Peter and Paul" (National Museum, Stockholm).

    Fernando Marías in The Dictionary of Art. 13, New York, 1996, p. 343, refers to this picture as a "supposed Self-portrait" and dates it ca. 1590.

    María Margarita Cuyás in El Greco: Su revalorización por el Modernismo catalán. Exh. cat., Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Barcelona, 1996, pp. 126–27, ill.

    Fernando Marías. Greco: Biographie d'un peintre extravagant. Paris, 1997, pp. 224, 226, ill. p. 8 (color), as a self-portrait.

    M[aría del Mar]. Borobia [Guerrero] and José Manuel Pita Andrade in El Greco: Identity and Transformation; Crete, Italy, Spain. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Milan, 1999, pp. 157, 409, no. 57, ill. pp. 296 (color) and 409, Pita Andrade in his essay considers this a self-portrait, but Borobia, who wrote the catalogue entry, does not; she dates it 1595–1600.

    Joanne Snow-Smith. "El Greco's Religious Oeuvre in Spain: Reflections of Titian's Venetian Light and Michelangelo's Figura Serpentinata." El Greco in Italy and Italian Art: Proceedings of the International Symposium. Rethymno, Crete, 1999, p. 416, ill. (detail), as "Self-portrait, about 1609".

    Dawson W. Carr in El Greco. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Milan, 2001, pp. 186–87, no. 30, ill. (color), as "Portrait of an Old Man (self-portrait?)"; dates it 1595–1600.

    Fernando Marías. El Greco in Toledo. London, 2001, pp. 6–7, ill., as a self-portrait; dates it about 1595.

    Gudrun Maurer. Spanish Paintings. Stockholm, 2001, pp. 67–68 n. 16.

    José Álvarez Lopera et al. in El Greco / colaboraciones . . . Barcelona, 2003, p. 209.

    Keith Christiansen et al. in El Greco. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. London, 2003, pp. 271–73, no. 75, ill. (color).

    José Álvarez Lopera in The Spanish Portrait: From El Greco to Picasso. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. London, 2004, pp. 47, 123, 126, 129–31, fig. 60 (color), as "Portrait of an Old Man (presumed Self-Portrait)"; dates it about 1597–1603 and notes that it may depict El Greco's brother, Manusos.

    Anna Reuter in Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Madrid, 2006, pp. 318–19, ill. (color).

    Eduard Vallès in Picasso versus Rusiñol. Exh. cat., Museu Picasso. Barcelona, 2010, pp. 192, 393, ill. p. 207 (color).

    Fernando Marías. El Greco, Life and Work—A New History. London, 2013, p. 330, ill., and frontispiece (color).

  • See also