The Beautiful Lady at the Haunted Gardens of the El Greco House and Museum in Toledo Spain

by DerdriuMarriner

Women are rare in El Greco's paintings. Those who grace the Greek immigrant's art convey deep sadness. Which one haunts the gardens of the artist's house-museum in Toledo, Spain?

The name El Greco (“The Greek”) exists as the nickname for one of insular Greece’s and mainland Spain’s pre-eminent artists. It honors his wanderer lifestyle as:
• Native son of Crete, Greece’s largest island;
• Post-Byzantine and Venetian Renaissance master in Italy at Venice, 1567-, and Rome, 1570-;
• Proto-Cubist and Expressionist architect, painter, and sculptor in Spain at Madrid and Toledo, 1577-.

But little is known personally other than his:
• Devotion to mysticism;
• Loyalty to Crete;
• Preference for male subjects.

Art-lovers lack the revelatory personal portraits for Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541 – April 7, 1614) that they access regarding Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669). They may remain clueless respecting the beauty who haunts El Greco’s gardens.


Paseo Tránsito, s/n
Calle de Samuel Leví, 2
45002 Toledo, Castile LaMancha

Fax: +34 925225831
Telephone: +34 925990980

Closed: Wednesdays


Exterior of El Greco House Museum: site of ghostly beauty

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


The ghostly beauty’s appearance in El Greco House-Museum gardens accords with prevailing northwest Mediterranean looks. The young lady communicates:

  • Sadness;
  • Sallowness;
  • Spareness.

A lack of bejeweled, cosmetic adornments additionally conveys sixteenth- and seventeenth-century behavioral and emotional restraints in:

  • Crete;
  • Italy;
  • Spain.

El Greco’s artworks preserving his signature as Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος Κρής (Doménikos Theotokópoulos, Krēs [“Cretan”]) indeed evoke attachments to:

  • His mother and tax collector father, Geórgios Theotokópoulos (died 1556);
  • Manoússos Theotokópoulos (1529? – December 13, 1604), whose freefall from wealth to indebtedness relocated him to his brother’s household from 1591 onward.

But excepting a possible marriage, no female Cretan likely explains the spectral beauty’s manifestations. El Greco had to work overtime to distinguish himself among Crete’s artistic over-achievers.


"The Dormition of the Virgin": c. 1565-1566 Tempera and gold on panel by El Greco

Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, Hermoupolis (Ερμούπολη), Syros, South Aegean Greece
Holy Cathedral of the Dormition of the Virgin, Hermoupolis (Ερμούπολη), Syros, South Aegean Greece


The Scuola di San Luca in Crete’s modern-day Herakleion area channeled:

  • Draped textures, highlighted cheeks, and precise contours on Byzantine icons;
  • Landscaped backgrounds and naturalist depictions on Flemish Primitives.

Fluency in Byzantine space and Renaissance composition facilitated El Greco’s achievements as:

  • Guild master and workshop operator, 1563-;
  • Painter of Dormition of the Virgin, 1566.

Status as son and sibling to functionaries and merchants serving the Duchy of Candia -- controlled by the Venetian Republic, 1205 – 1669 -- inspired El Greco’s:

  • Arrival in Venice, 1568-;
  • Assimilation of Tintoretto’s (Jacopo Robusti, April 29, 1519 – May 31, 1594) and Titian’s (Tiziano Vecelli, 1480? – August 27, 1576) free-handed, rich-colored styles;
  • Avoidance of the Byzantine-oriented Greek Confraternity of San Giorgio dei Greci.


The Modena Triptych (front panels): tempera on panel, attributed to El Greco

Galleria Estense, Modena, Emilia-Romagna region, north central Italy
Galleria Estense, Modena, Emilia-Romagna region, north central Italy


Scholars sometimes associate a six-panel triptych in Modena with El Greco’s possibly accompanying Manoússos on merchant- and tax-related trips northwestward around 1567. Despite the polyptych’s feminine figures, no candidates emerge in peninsular Italy. Fluency in Byzantine tempera and Venetian oil techniques necessitated devotion and diligence. Their domination overlapped with El Greco’s:

  • Accumulation of Italian Renaissance-related literary and philosophical writings and practical and theoretical treatises;
  • Arrival in Rome, 1570-;
  • Friendship with miniaturist Giulio Clovio (Juraj Julije Klović, 1498 – January 5, 1578);
  • Lodging with Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (October 5, 1520 – March 2, 1589), 1570 - 1572;
  • Miniature-painting membership in the Academy of St. Luke, 1572-;
  • Portraiture of Malta Defender and Rhodes Knight Vincenzo Anastagi (1531 - 1586), around 1576.


The Modena Triptych (back panels): tempera on panel, attributed to El Greco

Galleria Estense, Modena, Emilia-Romagna region, north central Italy
Galleria Estense, Modena, Emilia-Romagna region, north central Italy


Historians generally attribute El Greco’s travels westward to:

  • Independence;
  • Inquisitiveness;
  • Irascibility.

They typically connect his relocation from Italy to Spain in 1577 with:

  • Fallout from criticizing Giorgio Vasari’s (July 30, 1511 – June 27, 1574) and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s (March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564) architecture, painting, and writings;
  • Friendship with Murcia Cathedral painter Baltasar de Castro Cimbrón (flourished 16th century);
  • Introduction to Luis de Castilla -- son of Toledo Cathedral deacon Diego de Castilla (1507? – November 7, 1584) during the young priest’s stay in Rome;
  • Opportunities at the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the Madrid-area royal residence of King Philip II (May 21, 1527 – September 13, 1598).

They never hypothesize broken hearts.



The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio): ca. 1577-1579 oil on canvas by El Greco

Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, central Spain
Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, central Spain


Westward oceanic and overland voyages deposited El Greco in Spain. The architect, painter, and sculptor lived initially and temporarily in Madrid, central Spain’s cultural and politico-economic center. But before summer’s end, he moved everything -- including his library -- to Toledo, King Charles I’s (February 24, 1500 – September 21, 1558) imperial city. Through Deacon Castilla and García de Loaysa Girón (1534 – February 22, 1599), he obtained contracts -- completed in 1579 -- for:

  • Altarpiece retable and sculptures for Santo Domingo el Antiguo Monastery;
  • Expolio (The Disrobing of Christ) for the Toledo Cathedral, in replacement of and succession to Adoration of the Kings and St. John the Baptist altar-piece painter Hernando de Ávila (1538? – 1595), at 320 ducats.


"Martyrdom of St. Maurice and His Legions": 1580-1581 oil on canvas by El Greco

Chapter House, Monastery of El Escorial, Community of Madrid, central Spain
Chapter House, Monastery of El Escorial, Community of Madrid, central Spain


Toledo-based contracts established El Greco’s artistry despite Philip II’s disdaining Martyrdom of Saint Maurice in 1582. They preceded:

  • Raising Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli (1578 – 1631), his son with Jerónima de las Cuevas;
  • Renting the Marqués de Villena’s Houses, 1585-;
  • Sheltering Manoússos, released from arrests, 1582 – 1588, to installment-repay over 12 years government-embezzled monies, 1589-.

They prefaced:

  • Decorations: Augustine College, Illescas Charity Hospital, Isabel de Oballe Chapel, Saint John the Baptist Hospital, San José Chapel, Talaverilla Church;
  • Funeraries: Count of Orgaz (died December 3, 1323), Marguerite of Austria (December 25, 1583 – October 3, 1611);
  • Landscapes: Toledo;
  • Portraits: Jerónimo de Ceballos, Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541 – January 8, 1609), Hortensio Félix Paravicino y Arteaga (October 12, 1580 – December 12, 1633).


"Portrait of Don Fernando Niño de Guevara": ca. 1596-1601 oil on canvas by El Greco

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



Only paintings attest to El Greco’s Toledan years. The artist’s tomb does not exist because:

  • The Santo Domingo Church Convent Sisters removed his and daughter-in-law Alfonsa de los Morales’s (died 1617) remains in 1618;
  • The San Torcuato Monastery was destroyed in 1868.

His palatial lodgings exist no more because of fire. But thanks to artist Benigno de la Vega-Inclán y Flaquer (1858 – 1942) and architect Eladio Laredo y Carranza (1864 – 1941), the nearby El Greco House-Museum exists as a:

  • Sixteenth-century building and courtyard;
  • Twentieth-century extension and garden.

Is it Jerónima -- the love of El Greco’s socio-economically troubled life -- who stops on transits between her possible San Isidro birthplace and Santo Domingo de la Rioja deathplace?


"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

Burrell Collection, Glasgow, West Central Lowlands, Scotland
Burrell Collection, Glasgow, West Central Lowlands, Scotland



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.


"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

Sources Consulted


Allen, George R. 1984. El Greco: Two Studies. Philadelphia, PA: J.F. Warren.


Álvarez Lopera, José. (Ed.). 1999. El Greco: Identity and Transformation – Crete, Italy, Spain. Madrid, Spain: Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza; Milan, Italy: Skira; New York, NY: Abbeville Publishing Group.


Brown, Jonathan. 1982. El Greco of Toledo: Exhibition Organized by the Toledo Museum of Art, with Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Art, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.


Brown, Jonathan; and Mann, Richard G. 1990. Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art.

Byron, Robert; and Rice, David Talbot. 1968. The Birth of Western Painting: A History of Colour, Form, and Iconography, Illustrated from the Paintings of Mistra and Mount Athos of Giotto and Duccio, and El Greco. Reprint of the 1930 Edition. New York, NY: Hacker Art Books.


Calvo Serraller, Francisco. 1995. El Greco: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. Translated from the Spanish El Greco: El entierro del conde de Orgaz by Jenifer Wakelyn. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson.


Davies, David. (Ed.). 2003. El Greco: Essays by David Davies and John H. Elliott; Catalogue Entries by Xavier Bray, Keith Christiansen, Gabriele Finaldi with Contributions by Marcus Burke and Lois Oliver. London, England: National Gallery; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

"El Greco. Domenikos Theotokopoulos." History and Arts: Fichas > Personajes. Artehistoria Proyectos Digitales, SL. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

"El Greco Museum." Spain > Castile-LaMancha > Toledo. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

"El Greco Museum." Spain Info: Art > Museums. Madrid, Spain: Turespaña / Segittur (Sociedad Estatal para la Gestión de la Innovación y las Tecnologías Turísticas, S.A.). Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

"El Greco's Toledo." Indian Chief Travel Guides: Spain > Castilla-LaMancha > Toledo. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

Gudiol, José. Domenikos Theotokopoulos, El Greco, 1541 – 1614. Translated from the Spanish by Kenneth Lyons. New York, NY: Viking Press, 1973.


Hadjinicolaou, Nicos. 1995. El Greco in Italy and Italian Art. In Greek with English Translation. O Gkreko stin Italia kai i italiki techni / epimeleia, Nikou Chatsēnikolaou. Athens, Greece: Ioniki Trapeza.


Hadjinicolaou, Nicos. 1990. El Greco of Crete: Exhibition on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of His Birth. Domēnikos Theotokopoulos Krēs : ekthesē me aphormē ta 450 chronia apo tē gennēsē tou / epimeleia, Nikou Chatsēnikolaou. Iraklion, Crete: Dēmos Ērakleiou.


"Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos." History and Arts: Fichas > Obras. Artehistoria Proyectos Digitales, SL. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

Kelemen, Pál. 1961. El Greco Revisited: Candia, Venice, Toledo. New York, NY: Macmillan.


Lassaigne, Jacques. 1973. El Greco. English Translation by Jane Brenton. London, England: Thames & Hudson.


Luna, Juan J. 1983. El Greco. Agence France d'Images. Princeton, NJ: Films for the Humanities.


Mann, Richard G. 1989. El Greco and His Patrons: Three Major Projects. Cambridge, England; and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press Studies in the History of Art.

Marías Franco, Fernando. 1991. El Greco. Translated by Jay Hyams. Milan, Italy: Anaya Editoriale; New York, NY: Crescent Books.

Marías Franco, Fernando. 2013. El Greco: Life and Work, A New History. Translated from the Spanish Greco, Historia de un pintor extravagante by Paul Edson and Sander Berg. Donostia-San Sebastián: Nerea; London, England; and New York, NY: Thames & Hudson.


Marías Franco, Fernando. 2001. El Greco in Toledo. London, England: Scala Publishers National Monuments of Spain Series; Madrid, Spain: Aldeasa.

Marías Franco, Fernando. (Ed.). 2014. El Greco of Toledo: Painter of the Visible and the Invisible. Madrid, Spain: Ediciones El Viso.


"Museum of El Greco." Toledo - Travel Guide: Tourist Attractions. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

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"Outline Biography of El Greco (documented facts of his life)." Web Gallery of Art: Tours > Spain > Greco. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

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Panagiōtakēs, Nikolaos. 2009. El Greco: The Cretan Years. Translated from the Greek Krētikē periodos tēs zōēs tou Domēnikou Theotokopoulou by John C. Davis. With a Preface by Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Edited by Roderick Beaton. Farnham, U.K.; and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.


Preston, Stuart. 1953. El Greco. 46 Reproductions, Including 12 in Full Color. New York, NY: Beechhurst Press.


Suárez Quevedo, Diego. 2000. «La iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad de Toledo (parroquia de San Marcos) obra de Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli.» Anales Toledanos 61-82.

"Theotocópuli, Jorge Manuel." Museo Nacional del Prado: Enciclopedia > Enciclopedia online. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

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Tomlinson, Janis. 1997. From El Greco to Goya: Painting in Spain 1561 - 1828. Prentice Hall Perspectives Series.

Underwood, Peter. 2009. Haunted Gardens: An International Journey. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Amberley Publishing Plc.

Wethey, Harold E. 1962. El Greco and His School. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

White, K. "El Greco Museum, Toledo, Spain." Spain > Toledo > Museums. Retrieved October 27, 2014.

  • Available at:

Wismer, Beat; and Scholz-Hünsel, Michael. (Eds.). 2012. El Greco and Modernism. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag.


"Vista de Toledo (View of Toledo)": ca. 1596-1660 oil on canvas by El Greco ~ spectral atmosphere in one of El Greco's most famous paintings

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Haunted Gardens by Peter Underwood

Paranormal expect Peter Underwood shows, with examples from all over the world, just how spooky gardens can be! Carefully researched and fully illustrated with Peter's own photographs.
El Greco-themed books

The city is full of ghosts by Manuel Rebello/elgatoazul: heather grey t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

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El Greco of Toledo by Fernando Marías

Published to commemorate the 400th anniversary of El Greco's death. Catalog for exhibition at Toledo's Museo de Santa Cruz from March to June 2014. Includes comprehensive selection of masterpieces by El Greco.
El Greco biographies

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


DerdriuMarriner on 11/03/2014

Mira, Me, too, I love the entrance into the canon by past artists who may not have been appreciated in their time. I also agree that there probably are many lost masterpieces, or masterpieces which are unknown to the public because they have been housed in private collections.

Mira on 10/31/2014

He was certainly one of a kind in his day, and inspired so many modern painters. I love it when some of the "distinctive," as you say, artists of the past enter the canon. I have a feeling there may have been many who diverged from the norm(s) of their day and place but who nevertheless created small masterpieces. Some of them are rediscovered, but I think many, way too many, are forgotten, or are present only in the pages of art journals for the academia.

DerdriuMarriner on 10/30/2014

Mira, It's fun to learn new tidbits, especially about rather familiar figures such as El Greco. His paintings are so distinctively styled. His legacy is great.

Mira on 10/30/2014

It was lovely to read about El Greco! I've learned quite a few things :)

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