Domenicos Theotokopoulos (1541 - 07/04/1614)
He was probably born in 1541 in Chandax, modern Heraklion, during its occupation by the Venetians. He studied hagiography, as a public certificate of 1563 suggests, as well as ancient Greek and classical literature, which is evident by the book collection he bequeathed after his death. Theotokopoulos got acquainted with the work of Renaissance painters and he started working as a painter as early as 1563. A 1566 document says that Theotokopoulos was commissioned to a painting estimated at 70 ducats, a very high price for a young artist at the time. It is unknown whether his family was Orthodox or Catholic, as both dogmas were present in Crete. It is more probable that they were Orthodox for two reasons; his uncle was an Orthodox priest and Domenikos’ name is not found in the christening records of the Cretan Catholic church. Some scholars believe that he was later converted to Catholicism, because in his will, he referred to himself as a devout Catholic; this is not necessary though, as he was obliged to write that because of the Inquisition.
Around 1567, he left Crete and went to Venice for three years, where he was inspired by excellent painters of the area, such as Titian and Tintoretto. He also stopped using wood for his paintings and started using canvas, as well as the technique of oil painting. In 1570, he went to Rome where he was commissioned to create a portrait of Julio Clovio. In Rome, he realized the competitive atmosphere present, while Titian’s work was dominant and Michelangelo was still influential despite his death six years earlier. It is not clarified what the opinion of Theotokopoulos for Michelangelo was; according to an unconfirmed source, he proposed to Pope Pius V to paint over Michelangelo’s Second Advent at the Sistine Chapel; moreover, when asked at a later time, Theotokopoulos said that he believed Michelangelo was a good man who did not know how to paint. Nevertheless, he was deeply inspired by him. In fact, at his work Expulsion of the Merchants, Theotokopoulos used Michelangelo’s portrait, along with Titian’s, Clovio’s and Raphael’s, to honour them.
In 1577, he went to Spain, settling in Toledo, a religious and political centre. That’s where he was recognised and created his most important works. He was commissioned to create a number of paintings for the church of Santo Domingo, while King Phillip II of Spain decided to commission him to create the paintings for the Saint Laurence church. He had a son, Jorge Manuel. In 1614, he died before completing his final work for the hospital Tavera of Toledo, and was buried at the church of Santo Domingo in Toledo. In 1619, his son transferred his remains to the church of San Torquato, which was later demolished, and his remains were lost. According to his son’s records, Theotokopoulos created a total of 143 complete paintings, 45 plaster or terracotta models, 150 drawings, and 200 engravings.