2007's biopic El Greco claims the painter was put on trial by the Spanish Inquisition, more specifically Grand Inquisitor Fernando Niño de Guevara, for blasphemy. The film is a heavily fictionalized version of the painter's life and doesn't necessarily claim historical accuracy. Nevertheless the tribunal (and acquittal) is the film's major plot element and since it was largely successful (in Greece and Spain), the painter's struggles with the Inquisition are sometimes quoted as fact.

This, however, is quite hard to believe. El Greco would occasionally be invited to tribunals as an interpreter for Greek speaking defendants, and the Grand Inquisitor is most probably the subject of the painter's Portrait of a Cardinal. His relationship with the Inquisition seems to have been generally amicable, and it would have been highly unlikely he could continue producing works with religious themes if he had any kind of troubles with the Catholic Church.

Is there any record of El Greco ever having troubles with the Inquisition during his time in Toledo?

4 Answers 4


The Catholic Encyclopedia (not the most unbiased of sources) states:

He appeared before the tribunal of the Inquisition at Toledo in 1582, as interpreter for one of his compatriots who was accused of being a Moor

El Greco, by Michael Scholz-Hänsel, goes into rather more detail, saying

Between May and December 1582, El Greco served as an interpreter at nine Inquisition sessions. A 17-year old Greek servant from Athens, Micael Rizo Calcandil, had been charged with heresy, but was finally found innocent.

Scholz-Hänsel raises two other points: one that El Greco's patron Diego de Castilla was opposed to the Spanish Inquisition's approach to limpieza de sangre, and the other that El Greco's A Cardinal (probably Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara, the Grand Inquisitor) was provocative, in particular by showing the modern innovation of spectacles, presumably as desired by the sitter.

None of these points suggest El Greco personally had any serious issues with the Inquisition. He could have left its centre in Toledo at any time but chose to stay.

The 1966 biopic also had El Greco accused of witchcraft and heresy before the Cardinal Inquisitor.


El Greco was very sceptical of the Church and there is a painting attributed to him which is said to be the one which brought him before the Inquisition. It is reflected in the film but not shown so it is probable that the film director was aware of the existence of the material or had access to documents from the Inquisition records that described the Angel painting and its implications which are obvious in a painting in private hands which appears to have come from a secret museum. It is a deliberate Greco composition drawn from the Icon which the painter is assumed to have sold to the Princess and reflecting most of the body´s singular aspects in reverse. The Angel too is more than glorified in this painting making him a very real person which may be why the Inquisitor accused him of being ignorant of the nature of an Angel. There is also a coffin in the painting which is sheer heresy in all its aspects and partly covered with a shroud. I have a photograph of it on files so if anyone wants to see it perhaps I can post it on this page.

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    Post it, please, and if you wish to improve your answer, please cite a source that links the picture to the point your are making. Dec 6, 2016 at 14:15

I am sorry I did not get informed about your email since they normally do so each time. I have access to photographs and Provenance of the painting and also more recent assessmets by experts.

The reason why I wrote up on its possibilities was because of the film and personal research which suggested that a painting with an Angel in some sort of heretical pose was to blame and it was a coincidence that such a painting attributed to El Greco by many, actually existed. Recently it has been atributed by a top international expert to his disciple Luis Tristan but it does not explain why he copied those badly painted feet that El Greco always depicted mysteriously. He would have improved not ridiculized his version of the Icon. i have no doubt in my mind, after sixty years of art collecting and mixing with experts, that it is an extraordinary El Greco and that only a very special Master could paint it. Why the doubts is the enigma.

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    You should edit this into your existing answer rather than posting this as a separate answer (since it doesn't stand as an answer by itself).
    – Steve Bird
    Apr 7, 2018 at 23:10
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    You may want to merge your accounts also... Apr 8, 2018 at 1:03
  • I would love to post the image, which the inquirer can obtain off me and post himself, but this sort of net contribution is out of bounds for any average mortal. How to post without being an IT technologist is beyond me. I can be got on [email protected] Apr 10, 2018 at 12:08

Let's speak clearly: El Greco was never put on trial by the Inquisition. Never ever, but in the contrary, he got a lot of money from Catholic prelates, including Inquisition members, for his paintings. It is a very well discernable tendency in modern filmography to paint in black everything related to Christianity, especially Catolicism. Producers of these “artworks” are all coming from the same spiritual nest: leftist-liberals.

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