Juan Rufo was born in Cordoba, around 1547, and his life was even more dramatic than his works. He was an inveterate gambler, whose father always had to bail him out of his many debts – which eventually forced him to flee the city. He never finished his studies in Salamanca, and on his return to Cordoba, he bought a jurist’s office for his father to run. Unfortunately in the first year Juan had swindled his customers out of 750 bushels of wheat and went on to sell and recover the jurist’s office several times in the space of a few years.
In 1569 the Morisco rebellion broke out, which he recorded in La Austriada (Tale of Juan de Austria), although in fact he did not personally witness the events, as he had run off to Madrid with a girl of dubious reputation. In 1570 he enlisted in the army and marched to Naples with the Duke of Sessa in the campaign against the Turks, before returning to Cordoba in 1578. In 1581 he got married, but kept on with his free and easy lifestyle, continually travelling to Madrid and Toledo, where the painter El Greco used his face in the paintings The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and St. Maurice.
He finally settled down in Cordoba and took up his father’s trade as a dyer, until his death after 1620.