In this video in the Frick Collection’s ‘Cocktails with a Curator’ series, we journey to 16th-century Rome with Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Xavier F. Salomon, to discuss El Greco’s ‘Vincenzo Anastagi’, one of three important paintings by the Renaissance artist at the Frick.
Born in Crete, El Greco spent a formative seven years in Rome, where, around 1575, he completed this rare, full-length portrait of a minor aristocrat from Perugia, then serving as Sergeant Major of Castel Sant’Angelo.
During the Renaissance, the representation of reflective armour offered a painter a chance to showcase his virtuosity. In his depiction of Anastagi, therefore, El Greco drastically abbreviated the details of the cuirass, while displaying his technical proficiency via the single blaze of light reflecting off the breastplate metal.
El Greco also stressed Anastagi’s military career and personal traits over his status. The artist’s free brushwork gives us the sunburnt face of a military man, his threads of gray hair, self-confident gesture and muscular calves attesting to Anastagi’s brilliance on the battlefield rather than idealising his features. The austere room further accentuates this contrast.
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