El Greco, ca. 1580
... “Fable” (circa 1570-75), done when El Greco enjoyed the favor of Alessandro Cardinal Farnese in Rome,
shows the young artist’s early interest in dramatic light.
The painting is based on a literary description of a lost masterpiece by Antiphilus of Alexandria,
although the reason for El Greco’s addition of a monkey in the scene is disputed.
The Genius of El Greco
Born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in Candia, Crete, in 1541 and probably trained as an icon painter,
the man who came to be known as El Greco (The Greek) journeyed to Venice and Rome as a young man
to study the work of the great Renaissance masters and became a disciple of Titian.
Although critical of the great Michelangelo, the arrogant El Greco imitated the Italian’s muscular,
massive treatment of figures in his early paintings. “Michelangelo did not know how to paint portraits...,”
the artist once wrote. “And as for imitating colors as they appear to the eye, it cannot be denied that this
was a fault with him.”...
By J. CARTER BROWN DIRECTOR, NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
National Geographic, June 1982