In honor of the 400th anniversary of El Greco’s death, the Frick Collection will pair one of his most famous works, Vincenzo Anastagi, with Jacopo Boncompagni by Scipione Pulzone, who worked in Rome during the same time period. The result is Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face to Face.
Though becoming obsolete due to firearms replacing swords, armor was closely associated with valor, prestige and social status. Both paintings feature it in detail — but with different results. Like many artists of the late16th century, El Greco became a skilled portrait painter due to its popularity amongst wealthy patrons. Vincenzo Anastagi, a jewel of the Frick Collection, was a middle-ranking nobleman and is shown wearing field armor. It is one of only two full-length portraits by the master.
Scipione Pulzone was a popular portrait painter with an impressive list of clients including two Popes. His portrait of Jacopo Boncompagni is designed to present a lofty higher-ranking personage. Jacopo was head of the papal army and his vibrant armor is decorative and ceremonial. Paired together they show a time when armor was losing its utilitarian value but not its social cache.
Men in Armor: El Greco and Pulzone Face to Face is on view at the Frick Museum from through October 26, 2014.