Domenico Theotokopoulos
('El Greco', 1541-1614)

The Renaissance Painter

Domenico Theotokopoulos (1541-1614) was born in Fodele. A small coastal village some 50 kilometres east of Villa Talea on the road towards Heraklion. He became known under the name 'El Greco' (The Greek) when he settled in Spain where he became court painter to King Philip II. El Greco studied the icon painters of the Cretan school and became renowned for his large-scale emotional religious canvases with elongated figures and unique colour that married Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting. In 1553 The Byzantine empire had fallen and Crete had come under the rule of Venice. In Heraklion in those days many artists gathered and El Greco initially learnt from these. Later in 1567 he left Crete to study in Venice under Titian. Here he spent the next three years, then went on to Rome.

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz

In Rome he associated himself with several artists among others Michelangelo and Raphael. Later he opened his own workshop in Rome. In 1576, however, he left Italy and went to Spain. A year later he arrived in Toledo where he were to spend the rest of his life. His emotional style of painting was well recognised and he was appointed court painter to King Philip II. Many of his most famous paintings were produced in this period.

He never married his companion Jeronima de las Cuevas, but in 1578 she gave birth to his only son Jorge Manuel who became his partner and fellow artist. El Greco died on 7th of April 1614.

Traces of El Greco in Crete today

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz (detail)

The only paintings of El Greco on display in Crete is exhibited in The Historical Museum of Crete at 7, Lysimachos Kalokairinos in Heraklion. Two paintings by Domenikos Theotokopoulos are displayed in the Post Byzantine collection: 'The Baptism of Christ' (1567) and 'View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine' (1570). The Museum is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm, opening late on Wednesdays until 9pm.

In Fodele, at about one kilometer from the village centre in the house that is said to be his birthplace is the 'El Greco House and Museum'. It contains a small collection of memorabilia and some reproductions of his work. The Museum has open from 9am to 5pm every day apart from Monday during the tourist season.

El Greco, the Film

The Knight with His Hand on His Breast

In 2007 a film was made about El Greco's life. Based on a biographical novel: 'El Greco: O Zografos tou Theou' (El Greco: the Painter of God) by Dimitris Siatopoulos.

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