Domìnikos Theotokòpoulos also known as El Greco Portrait of Giulio Clovio


Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte




860 x 580 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The painting depicts a short-haired man with a thick gray beard. He is wearing a black robe, with a white shirt underneath of which you can see the collar and a glimpse of sleeves. The man is sitting inside a room with a window that opens to a landscape with trees and mountains. The man is in slightly turned position and looking directly at the viewer, while indicating an open book with his index finger of his right hand and holding the book with his left hand. The old man is Giulio Clovio, a miniaturist painter of Croatian origin, born in 1498 and died in Rome in 1578. He worked for a long time in the service of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in the papal city. His mastery in the art of miniature was so outstanding that Giorgio Vasari and his contemporaries called him the “Michelangelo of miniatures”. Before he arrived in Rome, Clovio stayed in Venice, where he was employed and supported by the noble Contarini family, and in Florence, from where he traveled to Hungary, from where he went to Rome. There he studied the art of drawing and painting with Giulio Romano and he managed to introduce himself quickly to the cultural circles of the city, in particular to the rich and powerful Farnese family. The portrait painted by his friend, a painter from Candia, El Greco, depicts Clovio holding a precious object in his hands, which draws the attention of the viewer. It is the famous book, Libro d’Ore, preserved today in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, which he himself decorated with miniatures in 1546 for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. In September 1570 the powerful Cardinal commissioned the portrait of Giulio Clovio from El Greco, who was staying in Rome with the Farnese family. Clovio himself had introduced the artist Alessandro’s culturally sophisticated court, describing him to Farnese as “a young Candiotto, Titian’s disciple”. The family librarian, scholar Fulvio Orsini, whose collection included this painting, was part of this circle. The portrait of his friend Clovio is the first documented portrait of El Greco, who did not only show a great skill in portrait painting but also strongly assimilated Venetian culture, in particular the later works of Titian and Tintoretto, which the artist had studied during his stay in Serenissima until 1570. The use of colors, the brush strokes, the light mixed with dense tones are, in fact, typical elements of Tintoretto’s painting which influenced El Greco and which he would later combine with dramatic restlessness and the mannerist tendency to lengthen the figures, which was only barely perceptible in this work, visible in Clovio’s sharp eyes, his large hands and in the stormy landscape in the background. The painting passed from Fulvio Orsini’s collection to the Farnese family and it arrived in Naples in the 18th century with Charles of Bourbon, king of Naples from 1734 and son of Elisabetta Farnese, the last descendant of the family. The painting is signed “Domìnikos Theotokòpoulos”.

Artist Details

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He was born in Greece to a merchant from Candia. He trained in Crete, which belonged to the Venetian Republic at the time and therefore his artistic roots were linked to the Venetian culture. He deepened his studies in Venice at the end of the 1560s’.

Earlier, in Crete, he had dedicated himself to icon painting, which was close to the late Byzantine culture, a mix of western and eastern culture popular in those territories in Greece. In Venice El Greco studied the works of the great local tradition, in particular the paintings of Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto and Bassano, while in Rome, where he was invited in 1570 by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese requested by his miniaturist friend Giulio Giovio, he opened a workshop and studied the masters of the Renaissance.

Around 1563 his workshop had gained such a reputation that he was recalled as a master in the documents of the time. His time in Italy profoundly influenced the pictorial style of El Greco. His main references became the colors of Titian, the works of Raphael, Correggio and Parmigianino, the Mannerism of the Tuscan-Roman Renaissance but above all the tones and use of light of Tintoretto. After his stay in Italy his figures became characterized by stretched and suffering faces, often with gray or yellowish complexion, illuminated by dramatic light, which underlines the restless atmosphere in his scenes.

In 1577 the painter moved to Toledo due to differences with the representatives of the Roman upper class and artistic circles of the city. In Spain he received important commissions, thanks to the friendship he had maintained with Clovio, who was friends with people close to Philip II. He painted several altarpieces for the monastery of San Domenico di Silos, in addition to the Disrobing of Christ (Espolio) for the cathedral of Toledo, and for the sovereign Philip II he painted the Allegory of the Holy League and the Martyrdom of St. Maurice, which, however, did not please the ruler, who did not give him any more commissions.

Domìniko continued to work in Toledo, where he was given other important commissions, such as the large painting with the Burial of the Count of Orgaz from 1586-1588 (Toledo, San Tomé) and other painting for the convents and religious institutions in the city.

He died in Toledo in 1614.

Collection Details

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The collection of Capodimonte has the origins in the refined and elegant collection of the Farnese family. The first assemblage was formed in 1534 thanks to the initiative of Alessandro Farnese (1520-1589) and Pope Paul III, both interested in ancient objects (conserved today in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Naples) and the most important artists of the period.

In 1734 Charles III of Spain took the throne and inherited mother Elisabetta Farnese’s collection which was moved from Rome to Parma during the 18th century. In this occasion he felt the need to find a suitable location for the collection.

The construction of the Capodimonte building on the hill started in 1738 and it was used both as a residence and as a gallery. The place was first only visited by famous persons, such as Johann Winckelmann, Antonio Canova and Marquis de Sade.

The museum was inaugurated in 1957, thanks to the insistence of Ferdinando Bologna Raffaello Causa, opening to the public extensive collection of 2900 paintings, 150 sculptures, 17700 objects of decorative art, 26000 drawings, extended over 12000 square meters and divided into 114 rooms.

During the 18th century, the collection was enriched with the works commissioned by the sovereigns of the Bourbon family, but the lootings by French troops in 1799 marked the beginning of decline as its function as a museum.

In the 19th century the building was mostly used as a residence. French general Joachim Murat lived in the building with his wife and they brought new furnishing and interior decorations to Capodimonte.

Only after the arrival of the Savoys and thanks to Annibale Sacco, the new era of the museum started: the art objects which were spread in various residences of the Bourbon family were collected and moved to Capodimonte and there was a new attention to contemporary figurative production of art.

For this reason, there are two main groups in the collection. The Farnese collection includes the portraits of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, Giorgio Vasari and Andrea del Sarto by Raphael, portrait of Bernardo de’ Rossi by Lorenzo Lotto, portraits of Paul III and Paul III with his Grandsons Alessandro and Ottavio Farnese and Danae by Titian, Portrait of Antea by Parmigianino and the cartoons by Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci and pictorial cycles of Carracci, donated in 1600 by Fulvio Orsini. The second collection includes the historical pieces of Neapolitan art from circa 1200 to 1700. Among them are the works by Simone Martini and Colantonio’s St. Jerome, an example of the lively and rich Aragon period, and the works of foreign influence such as Pinturicchio’s Assumption of the Virgin. The 17th century was considered as the golden era of Neapolitan art, influenced by the works of Caravaggio and his followers. From this era there are Caravaggio’s Flagellation from 1606-1607, Ribera’s Drunken Silenus, Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith and Holofernes, Guido Reni’s Atalanta and Hippomenes and Mattia Preti’s St. Sebastian.

The current layout of the museum is a result of the series of restorations in the 1980s’ and 1990s’ which determined the division of the collection onto three floors. The ground floor includes the educational rooms, the mezzanine floor holds the department of drawings and prints, the Farnese collection, the Borgia collection and the royal apartment are in the first floor and finally on the second floor the Neapolitan gallery, the D’Avalos collection, the 19th century gallery and the photographic gallery.