(1600 - 1700)
Oil on canvas
17 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (44.5 x 34.3 cm)
Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Algur H. Meadows Collection, MM.71. 03
Hear a reading of the object label (1:18 minutes)
A strong tradition of portrait painting began in Spain with the arrival of Anthonis Mor (1517–1576) in the sixteenth century. Mor blended together both Flemish and Italian traditions in his portraits, including the Meadows’s Portrait of Alessandro Farnese. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, Mor’s style had come to be as influential as that of another artist, El Greco (1541–1614), who created bust portraits that were characterized by triangular composition as well as by the employment of a minimal palette. Portraits of this kind had a great influence on many Spanish painters, quite possibly including the unknown artist of the Meadows Museum’s Portrait of an Ecclesiastic.
Although once attributed to Juan van der Hamen (1596–1631), it continues to be difficult to attribute this work to any individual artist. Another master, Juan Bautista Maíno (1581–1649), also has been considered as he was active in Toledo in the 1620s and would have been familiar with El Greco’s portraits. Although this fact still does not present a convincing attribution, the painting’s subtle and insightful likeness attests to an artist of the first rank. The identity of the man represented is also unknown; however, his dress, a bulky black robe and high collar, suggests that he is probably an ecclesiastic.