Feel Art Again: "A Lady in a Fur Wrap"

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Back in November, we had a "Clip Show Edition," which led to several suggestions of artists and works to cover. Erin suggested El Greco; upon researching him, I discovered that one of his paintings, "A Lady in a Fur Wrap," is both a mystery and a controversy in the art world. So, without further ado, let's revisit El Greco's mysterious woman...

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1. "A Lady in a Fur Wrap" differs from El Greco's other paintings in two significant ways: the skin of the lady is pink, not blue-white, and the subject is, well, a woman. There is no other well-known El Greco portrait of a woman.

2. The identity of the lady is not known with certainty. Based on the intimate and informal nature of the portrait, the apparent age, the time frame when the portrait was completed (1577-1580), and the lack of other portraits of females, though, she is most likely El Greco's common-law wife, Jeronima de las Cuevas, with whom he had a son.

3. Because "A Lady in a Fur Wrap" is so different from El Greco's other works, artists and scholars are embroiled in a debate over the painting's authorship. The UK's Guardian as well as The New Yorker have discussed the debate, and in 2004, the painting was to be X-rayed in an attempt to better determine authorship.

4. About 170 years ago, the painting was actually exhibited in London as "The Daughter of El Greco." This further complicates the debate, since there are no reports of El Greco ever having a daughter.

5. For the most part, El Greco's style puzzled his contemporaries, although Giulio Clovio, the greatest miniaturist of the age, believed El Greco to be "a rare talent in painting." It was not until the late 18th century that he began to be more widely appreciated. Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Jackson Pollock have all reportedly completed paintings after El Greco's style.

6. While he is known as "El Greco," his real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos. He signed his paintings in his full name, in Greek letters, and sometimes followed by Kres (Cretan), since he was born in Crete.

7. El Greco once said of Michelangelo, "He was a good man, but he did not know how to paint." Many artists, though, find fault with El Greco's own style, leading Antonio Palomino to remark in 1724, "We can define El Greco's work by saying that what he did well none did better, and that what he did badly none did worse."

"˜Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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December 27, 2007 - 9:56am
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