The “Burial of the Count of Orgaz” at the Museo del Prado
Títle: ” The Burial of the Count of Orgaz ”
Date: 1625 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 188 x 248 cm.
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.
Several replicas of various masterpieces of El Greco have survived so far, which are regarded either as a work of Doménikos himself, or painted by Jorge Manuel or by the workshop with more or less intervention of the master.
For instance, Camón Aznar mentioned in his catalogue 110 copies on the subject of St. Francis of Assisi. According to Harold E. Wethey, only 24 of those copies were painted by El Greco himself, whereas the rest would have been made by his workshop.
However, not any replica -contemporary to El Greco– of the “Burial of the Count of Orgaz” has remained so far. As a matter of fact, it is understandable that only few people were interested in that unusual subject, a mere local legend.
Even though two “Burial of the Count of Orgaz” were quoted in the second inventory made after the death of the master, one of them was a “borroncito” (a sketch), and it seems very unlikely that the other picture was the one nowadays at the Museo del Prado.
Certainly, El Prado houses a very interesting replica of the “Burial”, which is thought to be painted some years after the death of Doménikos. That copy represents the lower part of the original at Santo Tomé, although adapting it to a smaller format and roughly maintaining its compositional proportionality.
That painting was quoted by Antonio Palomino in the “Casa Profesa de los Jesuitas” (Toledo) in 1724. Due to its quality, it was firstly ascribed to El Greco, until Cossio rejected that attribution in his catalogue of 1908, pointing the name of Jorge Manuel as a possible author.
Currently, it is considered a late copy, painted by a single artist who imitated quite faithfully the images and the appearance of the original, but not the pictorial layers and glazes used by El Greco, by Jorge Manuel and the more direct collaborators of the master.
In any case, that skilled painter probably had been previously working at the studio of Doménikos, since he knew several pictorial resources that were used there. Certainly, he used heavily charged brushstrokes in zones such as the flames of the candles, the chasubles and the ruff-necks, whereas the processional cross was painted using small brushstrokes. Also, he scumbled and dragged the pigments in other areas such as the habit of the Franciscan, whereas one head in the second row was depicted in a rather impressionist technique corresponding to the final stage of El Greco.
There are some changes at the part representing the Heaven. The clouds are slightly higher than in the original canvas, while the three groups of cherubs have been eliminated. A small foreshortened angel has been moved towards the base of the clouds, in order to introduce that figure into that painting.
Moreover, a more interesting change has been made in the Terrestrial part. The cleric on the right, behind the main celebrant of the ceremony, has been curiously transformed.
Certainly, in the painting at Santo Tomé that cleric was a young man, with dark hair, moustache and goatee. However, in the copy at the Prado, he appears as an elder with a gray beard and hair.
Perhaps that cleric was responsible for the making of that painting. And maybe -if he was the same individual- he was allowed to be included in that copy, reflecting the years that passed since he was portrayed for the first time in the glorious masterpiece at Santo Tomé.
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El Greco en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo Razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 238-241).
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967.
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