The Inquisitor and the Imposter
64" x 68"
Collection of Peter Greenfield
They hung together in the Met for decades, the intimidating Grand Inquisitor
by El Greco next to a small self-portrait of the artist himself. That's the image
we, as students, had of the master of Toledo. More recent scholarship concluded
it's not the old Greek himself, but some stranger. The label now reads, "Portrait
of an Elderly Gentleman" by El Greco. This identity mix-up inspired the following
flight of fancy. The cardinal decides he needs a portrait of himself to confirm
his exalted position in the eyes of the people. "Who's the best?" he asks. "El
Greco," say his bishops. "Tell the captain of the guard to bring him at once,
with his brushes and paints." So the guards mistakenly roust out this
old guy who looks like the artist and drag him down to the castle. He's a tailor
who paints on the side, but he's too frightened to confess that he's not El Greco.
I sympathized with his plight, not being El Greco either. Anyway, I decided to
let him show what he could do before he got sent off to the dungeon. Like El
Greco himself, he turns out to have a suprisingly modern style, although probably
not what the cardinal had in mind to inspire the populace.