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Doménikos Theotokópoulos El Greco

Greece

Biography

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, most widely known as El Greco, was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance.

The Assumption of the Virgin

Oil on canvas

211.8 x 403.2 cm

Christ Healing the Blind

Oil on canvas

146.1 x 119.4 cm

El Greco painted this masterpiece of dramatic storytelling either in Venice or in Rome, where he worked after leaving Crete in 1567 and before moving to Spain in 1576. It illustrates the Gospel account of Christ healing a blind man by anointing his eyes. The two figures in the foreground may be the blind man’s parents. The upper left portion of the composition is unfinished. El Greco painted two other versions of the subject, and seems to have taken this one with him to Spai

The Vision of Saint John

Oil on canvas

193 x 222.3 cm

The painting is a fragment from a large altarpiece commissioned for the church of the hospital of Saint John the Baptist in Toledo. It depicts a passage in the Bible, Revelation (6:9-11) describing the opening of the Fifth Seal at the end of time, and the distribution of white robes to "those who had been slain for the work of God and for the witness they had borne." The missing upper part may have shown the Sacrificial Lamb opening the Fifth Seal. The canvas was an iconic work for twentieth-century artists and Picasso, who knew it in Paris, used it as an inspiration for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon

The adoration of the shepherds

Engraving

34.6 x 47 cm

The print is closely related to El Greco's painting of the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (05.42). Another earlier version exists in Valencia (Colegio del Patriarca). See discussion by Walter Liedtk in the entry for 05.42.

Christ Carrying the Cross

Oil on canvas

79 x 105 cm

During his long career in Spain, El Greco produced numerous paintings of Christ carrying the cross. The Lehman canvas, arguably his earliest version of the subject, is not a narrative scene: no other figures are represented and the setting is not recognizable. Instead, it is a devotional image of haunting immediacy and resonant with pathos. Christ's willing sacrifice for mankind is expressed through his gentle embrace of the cross and his heavenward gaze.

View of Toledo

Oil on canvas

108.6 x 121.3 cm

In this, his greatest surviving landscape, El Greco portrays the city he lived and worked in for most of his life. The painting belongs to the tradition of emblematic city views, rather than a faithful documentary description. The view of the eastern section of Toledo from the north would have excluded the cathedral, which the artist therefore imaginatively moved to the left of the Alcázar (the royal palace). Other buildings represented in the painting include the ancient Alcántara Bridge, and on the other side of the river Tagus, the Castle of San Servando.

Saint Andrew

Oil on canvas

64.1 x 109.9 cm

This painting is an early-seventeenth-century, reduced workshop replica of the figure of the apostle that appears in a larger devotional canvas by El Greco, Saint Andrew and Saint Francis (Prado, Madrid). Andrew and his brother, the apostle Peter, were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. The first to follow Christ, Andrew is said to have preached in Scythia, Asia Minor, and Greece, where he was reportedly martyred on an x-shaped cross at the hands of the Roman governor.

The Adoration of the Shepherds

Oil on canvas

101.3 x 144.5 cm

El Greco’s late work is characterized by a tendency towards abstraction and almost dance-like, restless movement. Here, the gestures of the shepherds indicate their excitement and wonder at the birth of Jesus. El Greco often made replicas or variants of important compositions and this picture—of very high quality—repeats features of a painting done for Juan de Ribera, patriarch of Antioch and archbishop of Valencia.

Cardinal Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609)

Oil on canvas

108 x 170.8 cm

This intense portrait depicts Fernando Niño de Guevara (1541–1609), who in 1596 was named cardinal and is dressed as such here. In 1599 he became Inquisitor General of Spain but resigned in 1602 to serve the rest of his life as Archbishop of Seville. The painting probably dates from the spring of 1600 when the cardinal was in Toledo with Philip III and members of the Madrid court. El Greco had lived in Venice and in the Farnese Palace in Rome, where Titian’s portraits (such as those of the Farnese Pope Paul III) would have revealed to the Greek painter the psychological possibilities of portraiture.

Portrait of an Old Man

Oil on canvas

46.7 x 52.7 cm

El Greco’s candid portraits have been consistently admired for their naturalism and psychological insight, even when (as in the eighteenth century) his other works fell out of favor.This portrait of about 1595–1600 has been alternately accepted and rejected as a searching self-portrait. Although there is no documented portrait of the artist, he seems to have cast himself in supporting roles within some of his pictures and these bear some resemblance to the present sitter.