When asked during a presidential debate in 2016 if he would seek to overturn Roe V. Wade, Donald Trump pledged he'd nominate a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court. He also said that women who aborted should be punished. His pick, Brett Kavanaugh, fits the mold. In a 2003 email, revealed by the New York Times in September, the judge wrote, “I'm not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land.”

Artist's reaction to Kavanaugh's promotion

In response to Kavanaugh's ascension to the high court, artist Phillip Allen painted a portrait of him he calls “New Grand Inquisitor” - a takeoff on El Greco's likeness of the Grand Inquisitor of Spain in 1600, Fernando Mino de Guevara, famed for burning 240 people at the stake.

In the place of Guevara's face, Allen painted Kavanaugh's, but with the same sinister stare and stiff posture even in the Old Masterwork. Unlike Allen's rendition, though, El Greco wasn't mocking him. In fact, he was on friendly terms with the Inquisition and in 1582 even served as an interpreter for the court.

Was El Greco kidding?

How, you may ask, could an artist participate in the Inquisition when fellow painters such as Veronese were routinely hauled in for questioning? The art world at the time considered El Greco strange in other ways, too. One of his contemporaries, Francisco Pacheco, noted in his tome “Art of Painting, Its antiquities and Greatness” that El Greco badmouthed Michelangelo, contending he didn't know how to paint.” This was not surprising coming from him, said Pacheco.

“He was odd in everything as he was in painting.”

Connecting the dots

Besides Allen's portrait that tied Kavanaugh to the old Grand Inquisitor, the artist alluded to that connection in an essay he wrote for the arts and culture website Hyperallergic: “While Cardinal de Guevara was probably more interested in forcibly converting Jews to Catholicism and molesting altar boys than practicing rape techniques on unsuspecting teenage girls, the themes of punishment, entitlement, and preserving the right of the religious to do anything they want under cover of textual sanction, remains a constant.” The constant he points to includes the sexual abuses of our time and the low opinion that the president has of women.

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In the 2005 Book “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald,” he said, “My favorite part of Pulp Fiction is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say Bitch be cool. I love those lines.”

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