THEOTOCOPULI, DOMENICO (c. known as El Greco, Spanish painter. He was born in Candia, Crete. His Greek name, Domenicos Theotocopoulos, was changed in Italy and Spain into Domenico and Dominico Theotocopuli, and he thus signed his name in Greek characters. We first hear of him in a letter written by the miniaturist, Julio Clovio, to the cardinal Alessandro Farnese, dated Rome, Nov. 16, 157o. "There has arrived in Rome a young man from Candia, a pupil of Titian, who, I think, is a painter of rare talent. . . . He has painted a portrait of himself which is admired by all the painters in Rome. I should like him to be under the patronage of your reverend lordship without any other contribution towards his living than a room in the Farnese Palace." Unfortunately, the portrait here mentioned is lost. Works of this early period are : the portrait of Clovio (Naples museum), "The Healing of the Blind," of which there are two versions (Museums of Parma and Dresden) and "Christ driving the Traders from the Temple," of which there are versions in the collection of Sir Herbert Cook, Rich mond, in the Minneapolis museum and in the Frick collec tion, New York, the last of a somewhat later period. Though a pupil of Titian, he was influenced by Tintoretto and the Bassanos, and while in Rome he studied Michelangelo. In the picture at Minneapolis, Titian and Michelangelo are introduced with Clovio in the lower right hand corner.
We next hear of Theotocopuli in Toledo, at work in the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, rebuilt in 1575 on the outskirts of the city. Here he designed the architecture and sculpture of a composite altar in Venetian style and painted the pictures for it. The centrepiece (now in the Chicago Art insti tute) representing "The Assumption of the Virgin," is a free adaptation to Spanish surroundings of Titian's masterpiece, in the Frari at Venice, and is painted with daring and intensity, in a rich, deep colour scheme. Flanking it, and still in their original position, are the imposing figures of St. John the Baptist and
St. John the Evangelist. On the side altars are "The Adoration of the Shepherds" and "The Resurrection," while "The Trinity" with its Michelangelesque "The dead Christ in the Arms of God the Father" is now in the Prado. Toledo had never seen such art before; and in 1577, the year when "The Assumption" was completed, he was asked by the chapter of Toledo cathedral to paint the chief picture for their new sacristy. He chose as his subject "The Stripping of Christ before the Crucifixion" (El Espolio). Christ's impressive figure in the centre stands out among a crowd of executioners whose brutality contrasts with the Gentle Marys in the lower part of the picture. The whole surface of the canvas is compactly filled. As in Michelangelo's blocks of marble, there are no open views, no empty spaces. The cold tone of the painting contrasts with the glowing Venetian colour of his earlier work, and is distinctly Spanish. The picture was completed in 1579. The chapter, finding its price too high, had it valued by artists, who decided in Theotocopuli's favour. Whereupon the chapter demanded the removal from the picture of "certain improprieties" such as the presence of the Marys below the Christ. The artist, being threatened with imprison ment, at length gave in; but somehow the picture was left as it was. It constitutes the masterpiece cf his early period in Spain. He had lavished all his art on it in the hope that the doors of the Escorial might open to him, and he seemed to succeed, for Philip II. asked him to provide an altarpiece for his church in the spring of 1580. In "St. Maurice and his Legion," El Greco realized a new form of expression, for which he had been searching since his arrival in Spain. Withdrawn as he was from the example of the great Italian masters, he was thrown on him self. His Byzantine origin made itself felt in the swinging rhythm of his design, the fervent religiosity of 16th century Spain in the extreme expression of feeling.