El Greco (1541-1614)
Diego de Covarrubias was the brother of Antonio de Covarrubias, both sons of one of the most famous architects of the Spanish Renaissance, Alonso de Covarrubias. Of particular note in this portrait is the subject's expression of vivacity and restrained serenity, in another magnificent example of psychological portraiture.
Diego had a solid education and held high positions in the ecclesiastical hierarchy: he was a theologian, jurist, professor in Salamanca and bishop of Segovia. It seems unlikely that El Greco portrayed him in person or even met him, as Diego died the same year that El Greco arrived in Toledo. Therefore, in order to paint this posthumous portrait, he must have used the portrait painted of him during his lifetime by Alonso Sánchez Coello, which is also in the Museum.
The comparison with Coello's portrait is significant. El Greco renewed the image of the portrait by introducing subtle variations that go beyond his own pictorial style. He softened the facial features while intensifying the liveliness of the eyes. Don Diego's figure becomes more dynamic as the bust lengthens slightly and the corpulent contours of the shoulders are blurred. El Greco thus revives the triangular composition.
He is set against a neutral background, dressed in a cassock, white surplice and bonnet, and wearing the gold and emerald pectoral cross typical of bishops.