“Allegory of the Spanish proverb” – one of the “night” paintings written by El Greco in Italy. It depicts a young man blowing coal to light a candle from it.
For a long time it was believed that such works reflected El Greco’s interest in the scenes of everyday life. However, researchers now believe that this work is an attempt by El Greco to reproduce the now lost masterpiece of the ancient Greek artist Antiphylus of Alexandria, mentioned by Pliny in his “Natural History”.
Pliny writes that “Antiphylus is venerated for his painting depicting a young man blowing into the fire.” Everyone is struck by the art with which a fire is depicted illuminating the room and the face of a young man. ” El Greco, being a Greek by nationality and also a very educated person, undoubtedly was interested in ancient painting.
The exact meaning of the monkey and the second human figure present in the picture remains unclear; However, there is a suggestion that they illustrate one of the proverbs popular in the artist’s time.