El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)|
El Greco (painter)
Greek, 1541 - 1614
Saint Ildefonso, c. 1603/1614
oil on canvas
overall: 112 x 65.8 cm (44 1/8 x 25 7/8 in.) framed: 135.4 x 89.9 x 6.7 cm (53 5/16 x 35 3/8 x 2 5/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Object 6 of 8
Probably in the artist's possession at the time of his death in 1614; his son, Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli, Toledo, by 1621. Presented 1698 to Carlos II [1661-1700] by Don Juan Varela Colima, the King's secretary and tax collector for the city and province of Toledo. Condesa de Quinto, Paris; (sale, Paris, 1862, no. 64, as Un saint Évêque écrivant, les regards tournés vers l'image de la Sainte Vierge); Alphonse Oudry; (his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 16-17 April 1869, no. 139, as Prélat écrivant l'histoire de la Vierge, for 500 francs); Jean-François Millet [1814-1875], Paris; his widow, Catherine Lemaîre Millet; (her estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24-25 April 1894, no. 261, as L'Évêque, for 2000 francs); Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas [1834-1917], Paris; (his atelier sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 26-27 March 1918, 2nd day, no. 2, as Saint Ildefonso écrivant sous la dictée de la Vierge); (M. Knoedler & Co., London and New York); sold 7 February 1922 to Andrew W. Mellon, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.; deeded December 1934 to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.
 The inventory of El Greco's estate made in 1614 includes the following item: "Un S. ilefonso escribiendo" ("A Saint Ildefonso writing"); see Francisco de Borja de San Román y Fernández, El Greco en Toledo, Madrid, 1910: 193.
 The painting is listed in the inventory of 1621 as follows: "Un san Ylefonso bestido de cardenal escribiendo, de bara y terzia de alto y casi un bara de ancho, con quadro dorado" ("A Saint Ildefonso dressed as a Cardinal writing, a vara and a third in height and almost a vara in width, with a gilded frame"); see Francisco de Borja de San Román y Fernández, "De la vida del Greco," Archivo Español de Arte y Arqueologia 3 (1927): 70, n. 15. A vara, a traditional Spanish measurement, equals about 84 cm. Thus, the painting was said to be 112 cm tall and almost 84 cm wide.
 Relación del magestuoso recibimiento y entretenido cortejo de una fiesta de toros celebrada en honor de Carlos II y su esposa en Burguillos en una casa de recreación de D. Juan Varela Colima, secretario de S. M. y recaudador de los servicios de millones de Toledo y su partido...3 de junio de 1698, Madrid, 1698. The relevant passage is transcribed in Francisco J. Sánchez Cantón, Fuentes para la historia del arte español, 5 vols., Seville and Madrid, 1923-1941: 5:509-510. The presentation is described as follows: "A la Reina se ofrecieron doce albanicas de láminas primorísimas y al Rey una pintura de vara y media de alto, original del célebre Dominico Greco, que representaba a San Ildefonso con nuestra Señora, objectos predeilectísimos de la devoción de Carlos II..." ("To the Queen were presented twelve fans with exquisitely decorated blades and to the King a painting a vara and one-half in height [i.e., about 126 cm tall], an original by the celebrated Dominico Greco, which depicts San Ildefonso with Our Lady, favored objects of devotion of Carlos II..."). The NGA painting is the only work by El Greco or his workshop which corresponds to this description.
The painting is listed in the inventory of the collection at the Palacio Real, Madrid, made between 1701 and 1703, as follows: "Ytten otro lienzo de Vara y Quartta de altto y bara de Ancho poco mas de Un San Yldefonso escribiendo delantte de Una Ymagen de nuestra Señora y Un Retratto en el mismo lienzo del Griego todo tasado en treinto Doblones" ("And another painting one vara and a quarter in height [i.e. c. 105 cm] and a little more than one vara wide [i.e., c. 84 cm] of a Saint Ildefonso writing in front of an image of Our Lady and a portrait in the same painting [frame?] by Greco all valued at 30 doblones"); see Inventarios reales: Testamentario del Rey Carlos II, ed. by Gloria Fernández Bayton, 6 vols., Madrid, 1975-: 1(1701-1703):31, no. 130.
This entry seems to refer to two separate paintings which had been enframed together. Double enframing was not common, but it was sometimes utilized in the collection of paintings at the Palacio Real in Madrid. Among the 1,067 entries in the 1701-1703 inventory of the Madrid palace, there are five additional references to other small works enframed together.
It is impossible to know what portrait was enframed with Ildefonso; the portrait might be a now-lost work. Nevertheless it is tempting to posit that the Ildefonso was displayed with Greco's portrait of a Dominican or Trinitarian monk (now in the Prado). This is one of the few portraits by El Greco or his school that could be combined with the Ildefonso without significantly exceeding the measurements given in the 1701-1703 inventory. Because the subject of this portrait is a monk, the combination of this painting with the Ildefonso would accord with the practice otherwise followed in the royal collection of jointly enframing thematically related works.
 Manuel B. Cossío, El Greco, Madrid, 1908: 598-599, no. 299; and August L. Mayer, Domenico Theotocopuli, El Greco, Munich, 1926: 46, no. 287, maintained that Zacharie Astruc purchased the painting in Madrid and imported it to France. This is not possible if the painting was in the Condesa de Quinto's sale because Astruc made his first trip to Spain in 1864. See Sharon Fletcher, Zacharie Astruc: Critic, Artist and Japoniste, Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, New York, 1977 (published in the series, Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts, New York, 1978): 305.
 The price is annotated in both the Frick Art Reference Library and the NGA copies of the sale catalogue.
 The price is annotated in the Frick Art Reference Library copy of the sale catalogue.
 In the 1990 NGA systematic catalogue (Jonathan Brown and Richard G. Mann, Spanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Washington, 1990: 44), the painting was incorrectly identified as lot number 3 in this sale, which was Saint Dominique, now owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession number 23.272 and identified as Saint Dominic in Prayer. Diana Kostyrko, e-mail of 18 March 2015, in NGA curatorial files, kindly pointed out the error.
 For an interesting account of Knoedler's purchase of this painting, see Sir Charles J. Holmes, Self & Partners (Mostly Self), London, 1936: 335-340.
 The date of purchase is noted in David Finley's notebook of Mellon acquisitions; original in NGA Gallery Archives, and copy in NGA curatorial files.
 Mellon collection records in NGA curatorial files.
- Carlos II, King of Spain
- Varela Colima, Juan Don
- Degas, Edgar
- Drouot, Hôtel
- El Greco
- Galerie Georges Petit
- Knoedler & Company, M.
- Mellon, Andrew W.
- Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, The A.W.
- Millet, Catherine Lemaîre
- Millet, Jean-François
- Oudry, Alphonse
- Quinto, Condesa de
- Sale, Paris
- Theotocópuli, Jorge Manuel
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