Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos: Artistic Son of El Greco and Jeronima de las Cuevas in Toledo, Spain

by DerdriuMarriner

The arts always attract fair shares of genius. El Greco is one such case. Research suggests that his son, Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos, may be too -- in architecture, not painting.

The arts oftentimes are described as:
• Demanding and isolating to their creators;
• Entertaining and informational for their audiences.

They can distance artists from nuclear families and socio-economic peers. Artists therefore enjoy sometimes non-traditional relationships which leave partners and progeny:
• Unprotected by law;
• Unrecognized by Church;
• Unwelcomed by society.

They experience such stress in balancing expensive materials, long hours, and surly patrons that they may find little or no time for parental responsibilities. Such nevertheless is not the case with Doménikos Theotokópoulos of Crete, Italy, and Spain. Art historians in fact know of El Greco as:
• Attempting to ensure the personal and professional well-being of his only known child;
• Praising Jorge Manuel’s Spanish-speaking mother, Jerónima de las Cuevas.

"La dama del armiño (lince) [ A Lady in a Fur Wrap (lynx)]": 1570s oil on canvas by El Greco, believed to be portrayal of Jerónima de Las Cuevas

Jorge's mother
Burrell Collection, Glasgow, West Central Lowlands, Scotland
Burrell Collection, Glasgow, West Central Lowlands, Scotland

 

The name Jerónima de las Cuevas brings to mind one of the art world’s most mysterious muses. It comes from the combination of the ancient Greek words ἱερός (hierós, “sacred”) and ὂνυμα (ónyma, name.”). It functions as the feminization of a name made previously famous by Stridon-born Illyrian Saint Jerome (347? – September 30, 420). The lady in question’s surname likewise is evocative since it translates into English as “of the caves.” Illyria’s landscape coincidentally keeps ancient cultural geographies ever present in the twenty-first century with famous caves in:

  • Albania;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Croatia;
  • Montenegro;
  • Serbia.

A similarly provocative serendipity overlaps the saint’s respect for the Hebrew language and scriptures with the Spanish-speaker’s residence in Toledo’s Jewish Quarter.

 

namesake of Jorge's mother Jerónima ~ "Saint Jerome": c. 1610/1614 oil on canvas by El Greco

Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, central Edinburgh, southeastern Scotland
Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, central Edinburgh, southeastern Scotland

 

Art historians associate Jerónima with the father and son artistic team of:

  • Crete-born architect, painter, scholar, and sculptor Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541 – April 7, 1614);
  • Toledo-born architect and painter Jorge Manuel Theotokópoulos (1578 – 1631).  

They consider Jerónima the companion of the former and the mother of the latter. They otherwise encounter great difficulty in amassing the facts and reconstructing the life of El Greco’s enigmatic muse. For example, no one thus far has concrete information to share regarding:

  • Birth, death, interment dates and places;
  • Physical addresses between birth and death.

But sixteenth- and seventeenth-century architecture and art specialist Fernando Marías Franco (born 1949) suggests for Jerónima possible pre-Greco identities as a modest-circumstanced girl inhabiting San Isidro by 1561.

 

"Portrait of a Man": believed to be El Greco's self-portrait

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

 

Some art-loving amateurs and experts contradictorily attribute to Jerónima a minimal presence in her companion’s and son’s daily lives. But such speculations do not square with the few known facts of the trio’s living arrangements in Toledo, Spain. For example, art historians know of El Greco’s:

  • Arranging to rent three suites totaling 24 rooms in the Marquis of Villena’s Houses in Toledo, from 1585 onward;
  • Mentioning Jerónima by name in documents;
  • Providing his deathbed description of her as honest and virtuous.

They suspect Jerónima of noble origins and painting skills. They tend to identify her as the beauty in:

  • Adoration of the Shepherds, 1614?;
  • Female Portrait, 1595?;
  • Portrait of a Lady in a Fur Wrap, 1577 – 1580.

 

Exterior of Marquis of Villena's House in Toledo: home for Jorge and his parents, now El Greco House Museum

Paseo del Tránsito, s/n, 45002 Toledo, Spain
Paseo del Tránsito, s/n, 45002 Toledo, Spain

 

The first letter of Jerónima’s name appears -- according to the Greek alphabet -- on one of the right hand’s rings of the ermine fur-clad, wealthy, young beauty’s portrait. The arched eyebrows, dark eyes, generous mouth, graceful fingers, intelligent gaze, long nose, pale skin, and thick hair are credible portents of similarly configured features in suspected portraits of Jerónima’s only known child with El Greco. Art-loving amateurs and specialists indeed associate Jorge Manuel Theotokópoulos with the models for:

  • The black-clad, white-cuffed, white-ruffed lad in the left foreground of El Greco’s masterpiece El entierro del señor de Orgaz (“The Burial of the Conde of Orgaz”), 1586;  
  • The black-clothed, white-cuffed, white-ruffed youth with brushes and palette in hand, 1603?

 

"El entierro del Conde de Orgaz (The Burial of the Count of Orgaz)": 1586 - 1588 oil on canvas by El Greco ~

Jorge is believed to be depicted as black-clad, white-ruffed lad in lower left foreground.
Church of Santo Tomé, Toledo, central Spain
Church of Santo Tomé, Toledo, central Spain

 

The name Jorge Manuel (“George Immanuel”) defers to the paternal side of the family. The first and middle names emerge as Hispanicizations of:

  • Geórgios Theotokópoulos (died 1556), El Greco’s father;
  • Manoússos Theotokópoulos (1529? – December 13, 1604), El Greco’s older brother.

But paternal associations have no detectable influences on the baptism -- by Toledo Governor Gregorio Angulo -- of Gabriel Theotokópoulos (born 1604), as:

  • El Greco’s and Jerónima’s grandchild;
  • Jorge’s son with his first wife, Alfonsa de los Morales (died 1617).

It is possible that the name follows the same pattern as Jorge’s own, but through name-saking maternal grandparent and sibling instead. No progeny surface from Jorge Manuel’s subsequent, successive marriages to:

  • Gregoria de Guzmán;
  • Isabel de Villegas.

 

"Portrait of the Artist's Son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos": ca. 1603 oil on canvas by El Greco (October 1, 1541 - April 7, 1614)

Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, Andalusia, southwestern Spain
Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, Andalusia, southwestern Spain

 

Historical documents acknowledge Jorge Manuel as apprentice and official in El Greco’s architecture, painting, and sculpture workshops, with:

  • Diego de Astor, engraver;
  • Pedro López, Pedro Orrente, Antón Pizarro [died 1622], officials;
  • Giraldo de Merlo (1574 - 1620), sculptor;
  • Juan Bautista de Monegro (1545? – 1621), retable-maker;
  • Francesco Prevoste (1554? – 1607?), apprentice;
  • Luis Rodríguez Tristán de Escamilla (1585 – December 7, 1624), pupil.

Jorge Manuel’s inputs emerge in:

  • Altarpieces (Doña Isabel de Ovalle chapel, Juan Bautista chapel, Lugarnuevo church, Nuestra Señora del Prado hermitage, Santa Maria Magdalena church);
  • Chapel decorations, paintings, retable, sculptures (Hospital de la Caridad);
  • Tombs (Queen Margarita’s [December 25, 1584 – October 3, 1611]).  

Santa Clara la Real’s convent altarpiece epitomizes Jorge Manuel’s genius after El Greco’s death.

 

El Tránsito de la Magdalena": ca. 1607 - 1609 altarpiece by Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos

Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Maria Magdalena, Titulcia, Comunidad de Madrid, España
Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Maria Magdalena, Titulcia, Comunidad de Madrid, España

Conclusion

 

Mystery cloaks the birth-to-death events of:

  • El Greco;
  • Jerónima;
  • Jorge Manuel.

It keeps generations guesstimating the trio’s emotional and physical inputs and outputs. Art historians still make concerted efforts to identify Jorge Manuel’s signature contributions to paintings other than:

  • Madonna of Charity;
  • Penitent Magdalene;
  • Saint Martin and the Beggar.

Jorge Manuel’s participation nevertheless may be suspected in architectural and art works realized from 1586 onward since the latter year launches the eight-year-old’s apprenticeship. Elucidation of his life story and those of Jerónima and El Greco suffer from three centuries of misunderstanding and non-appreciation by ecclesiastical and public patrons. But four-hundred-year commemorations of El Greco’s death verify the twenty-first century’s art-, science-, and technology-savvy peoples’ impressive, problem-solving derring-do.

 

 

Exterior of Cathedral of Toledo's Corpus Christi Chapel, also known as Mozarabic Chapel:

El Greco's son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos was an architect as well as a painter: he designed the Mozarabic Chapel's dome, which comprises eight sections with a large roof lantern cupola.
Toledo, central Spain
Toledo, central Spain

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

"The Penitent Magdalene": ca. 1610 - 1620 oil on canvas

Painting has been ascribed to El Greco but scholars today believe it was painted by his son, Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos
private collection

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"The Family of El Greco": ca. 1605 oil on canvas ~ painting occasionally attributed to El Greco but now generally ascribed to his son, Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli

Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), Madrid, central Spain
Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando (Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando), Madrid, central Spain
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Painting in Spain, 1500-1700 (The Yale University Press Pelican History of Art) by Jonathan Brown

Spain's golden centuries of painting
Spanish art

El Greco's House, Toledo, Spain

Childhood home of Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos, El Greco's son
El Greco's House, Toledo, Spain

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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