Is this the face of Cardoso?

Is this the face of Cardoso?

Image via  Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia


Well, in a word, no.

It is reported that King John IV of Portugal, an admirer of Cardoso’s music and supporter of his publications, kept his portrait hanging in his library (so the preface to Portugaliæ Musica tells us), but we have to assume that this was destroyed along with the library in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Yet, a simple Google image search for Cardoso brings up this portrait, which also adorns his Wikipedia, CPDL and IMSLP pages. The painting is Portrait of a Young Gentleman (1600s) by Domenikos Theotokopoulos (better known as El Greco due to his Greek heritage). El Greco painted numerous named portraits, none of which is Cardoso, and there is no reason to suppose that he, living in Venice, Rome and, from 1577, Toledo in Spain, would have met or even heard of Cardoso. The Tallis Scholars’ recording of Cardoso’s 6-voice Requiem used this portrait as its cover and this appears to have been misunderstood by others as being a portrait of the composer. 

Cardoso Tallis.jpg

El Greco had sought to gain King Philip IV of Spain’s patronage, but the two royal commissions he did secure were not favourably received, effectively destroying that hope. By contrast, Cardoso was well-respected by Philip who provided him with a theme which became the basis for the six Missæ Ab initio, the sixth of which was the final Mass of our Cardoso450 project, as well as a theme for the Missa Philippina. Together with the plainchant-themed Missa de beata Virgine these Masses make up Cardoso’s 1636 Liber tertias missarum which he dedicated to Philip.

The very lack of connection between Cardoso and El Greco via Philip IV is an opportunity to reflect on the precious little information we have about Cardoso and so many other Renaissance composers who live now almost exclusively through their music. El Greco’s anonymous portrait may have served as an erroneous image of Cardoso; we are fortunate at the Carmelite Priory to have gained a more vivid image of him through having performed his Masses and motets during the last two years.