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The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest

  • ‘The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest’ © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

    ‘The Nobleman with his Hand on his Chest’ © Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado





Around 1580


El Greco

Cultural background

Spanish School

Original title

El caballero de la mano en el pecho
Prado Museum

The nobleman with his hand on his chest

This masterpiece of the Spanish Renaissance is one of El Greco’s best known works. It is remarkable for its expressive gaze and the naturalness of the gesture of the hand.

It was painted in the early years of the artist’s stay in Toledo, and repays a closer analysis as it has several key features of the artist’s style. These include the exaggerated anatomical disproportions, the stylised figure, and the depth of the sitter's gaze.

It perfectly illustrates the sober style of dress in Spain at the time. There are a range of theories as to the meaning of the gesture. It could symbolise a state of mind, such as repentance or a vow.

Today it is thought to be a portrait of Juan de Silva y Ribera, the head notary of Toledo. However there have been various hypotheses regarding the sitter’s identity, including Cervantes or a self-portrait of the artist.

The work comes from the estate of the Duke of Arco in El Pardo (Madrid)

Details of the work

Royal Collection


82 cm x 66 cm




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