Harold Wethey

Harold Edwin Wethey (Port Byron, New York 1902 – Ann Arbor, Michigan, September 22, 1984) was a prominent art historian. Wethey received a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his doctorate from Harvard. He taught at Bryn Mawr College and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri before joining the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1940, where he taught until his retirement in 1972. At the University of Michigan Wethey became chairman of the department of fine arts. He was survived by his wife, Alice, and a son, David.[1] In 2006 a digital document was published, covering the life and work of Wethey as an entry from Contemporary Authors, a reference volume issued by Thomson Gale.[2]


Wethey wrote a number of books, among them, Colonial Architecture and Sculpture in Peru,[3] El Greco and His School in two volumes,[4] Alonso Cano,[5] a study of the 17th- century Spanish painter, and three volumes on Titian.[1][6] Wethey had also contributed three articles in Encyclopædia Britannica: "El Greco", "Titian" and "History of Western Architecture".[7]

Research on El GrecoEdit

The publishing of El Greco and His School in 1962 had a huge impact in scholarly circles. In 1937 a highly influential study by art historian Rodolfo Pallucchini had the effect of greatly increasing the number of works accepted to be by Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco. Palluchini attributed to El Greco a small triptych in the Galleria Estense at Modena on the basis of a signature on the painting on the back of the central panel on the Modena triptych ("Χείρ Δομήνιχου", Created by the hand of Doménicos).[8] There was consensus that the triptych was indeed an early work of El Greco and, therefore, Pallucchini's publication became the yardstick for attributions to the artist.[9] Nevertheless, Wethey denied that the Modena triptych had any connection at all with the artist and, in 1962, produced El Greco and His School, a reactive catalogue raisonné, with a greatly reduced corpus of materials. Whereas art historian José Camón Aznar had attributed between 787 and 829 paintings to the Cretan master, Wethey reduced the number to 285 authentic works and Halldor Sœhner, a German researcher of Spanish art, recognized only 137.[10] Wethey and other scholars rejected the notion that Crete took any part in his formation and supported the elimination of a series of works from El Greco's oeuvre.[11]

Since 1962 the discovery of the Dormition of the Virgin and an extensive archival research initiated by other scholars, such as Nikolaos Panayotakis, Pandelis Prevelakis and Maria Constantoudaki, gradually convinced the academic world that Wethey's assessments were not entirely correct, and that his catalogue decisions may have distorted the perception of the whole nature of El Greco's origins, development and oeuvre. The discovery of the Dormition led to the attribution of three other signed works of "Doménicos" to El Greco (Modena Triptych, St. Luke Painting the Virgin and Child, and The Adoration of the Magi) and then to the acceptance of more works as authentic – some signed, some not (such as The Passion of Christ (Pietà with Angels) painted in 1566),[12] – which were brought into the group of early works of El Greco. Even Wethey accepted that "he [El Greco] probably had painted the little and much disputed triptych in the Galleria Estense at Modena before he left Crete".[13] Nevertheless, disputes over the exact number of El Greco's authentic works remain unresolved, and the status of Wethey's catalogue raisonné is at the centre of these disagreements.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Harold E. Wethey". The New York Times. 1984-09-28. Retrieved 2006-12-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Gale Reference Team. "Biography - Wethey, Harold E(dwin) (1902-1984): An article from: Contemporary Authors (HTML - Digital)". Retrieved 2006-12-28. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Wethey, Harold E. (1949). Colonial Architecture and Sculpture in Peru. Harvard U.P. - Oxford U.P. ISBN 0-8371-4080-3. ASIN B0000CHKCK.
  4. ^ Wethey, Harold E. (1962). El Greco and His School. Princeton University Press. ASIN B0007DNZV6.
  5. ^ Wethey, Harold E. (1955). Alonso Cano: Painter, Sculptor, Architect. Princeton University Press. ASIN B0007DEUTM.
  6. ^ Wethey, Harold E. (1969–1975). The Paintings of Titian, Complete Edition (Volumes: I-III). London Phaidon.
  7. ^ "Greco, El - Author: Harold E. Wethey (d. 1984)". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2002.
  8. ^ Tazartes, Mauricia (2005). El Greco (translated in Greek by Sofia Giannetsou). Explorer. ISBN 960-7945-83-2., 25
  9. ^ Pallucchini, Rodolfo (May 1948). "Some Early Works by El Greco". Burlington Magazine. The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd. 90 (542): 130–135, 137. JSTOR 869910.
  10. ^ Cormack, Robin; Vassilaki Maria (August 2005). "The Baptism of Christ New Light on Early El Greco". Apollo Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-17. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
    * Tazartes, 70.
  11. ^ Arslan, Edoardo (1964). "Cronisteria del Greco Madonnero". Commentari. xv (5): 213–231.
  12. ^ Alberge, Dalya (2006-08-24). "Collector Is Vindicated as Icon Is Hailed as El Greco". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2006-12-17. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ Wethey, Harold E. (1984). "El Greco in Rome and the Portrait of Vincenzo Anastagi". Studies in the History of Art. 13: 171–178.
  14. ^ Mann, Richard G. (2002). "Tradition and Originality in El Greco's Work" (PDF). Journal of the Rocky Mountain. The Medieval and Renaissance Association. 23: 83–110. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-09-06. Retrieved 2006-12-28.