Mary Magdalene by El Greco, Type V

Mary Magdalene, Type V

Type V is the latest known extant interpretation of Mary Magdalene by El Greco, and it is an excellent example of the idiosyncratic style in the final stage of that painter. Harold E. Whethey is somehow contemptuous about that interpretation, and he says Magdalene appears “ecstatic to an unpleasant point

Magdalene appers to be still young and her face still beautiful, but she seems as though she has become a visionary hermit, fully dedicated to spiritual discipline. Certainly, despite her bare shoulder and breast, she does not exhibit that vague eroticism as in Type III. On the contrary, she seems to be experiencing an impressive inner emotion. The skull is used as a book lectern, as though her meditation was directed only to the Sacred Texts, rather than to the transience of mundane life.

In Type III, the brightness of the cloudscape and the delightful posture of Magdalene seems to indicate a moment of blissfulness and joy, both individual and cosmic. On the contrary, in Type V, it seems as if a commotion takes place, both inside and outside of Magdalene.

Indeed, her spiritual endeavours seem to acquire a cosmic dimension, since the folds of her clothes match the details of the expressionistic landscape and the clouds of the tempestuous sky, as if her inner microcosm was reflected in Nature, in a sort of cosmic tragedy.

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Mary Magdalene by El Greco, Type IV

Mary Magdalene, Type IV

Title: “Mary Magdalene”
Date: 1585-90 ca.
Medium: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 109 x 96 cm.
Location: Cau Ferrat, Sitges (Barcelona)

Harold E. Whethey thinks that canvas is perhaps the most important version of Magdalene, due to its great quality and also due to its excellent state of preservation, which has meant few and slight restorations.

In Type IV, Magdalene has undergone major changes, which make her appear as a quite different person. Although she looks still young and beautiful, she does not have the aspect of a distinguished lady, as in Type I and Type II. Instead, she seems to be a modest hermit, fully devoted to meditation. Besides, her posture is not affected and theatrical as in those Types, but she denotes a greater sincerity, a feeling much more internalized and convincing.

Furthermore, she does not exhibit the slight eroticism shown in Type III. Instead, Magdalene appears to be an intelligent but austere woman, whose hair is scarcer and less urled than in previous versions of that subject. The jar of ointment does not not appear, and her robes, althouhg pleasing, do not show the display of wealth and sophistication present in Type I and Type II

She is not gazing at the sky. She stands in the foreground, looking at the crucifix that is leaning against a rock, opposite to a wall with the usual climbing ivy. There is not a landscape stricto sensu.

The whole painting displays a sensitive, vigorous austerity, The lovely auburn hair of Magdalene, together with her red cloak, make a beautiful contrast with her pale skin, with the grey cloudscape,.and with the rock which supports the crucifix.

The beautiful hands of Magdalene are one of the most interesting features of that painting, While the right hand rests on her chest, the left one points at the skull, evident symbol of hermits, which indicate her repentance. They are splendidly depicted and obviously show those long and slender fingers so much to the liking of Doménikos, as well as one of the most typical gestures that the painter usually represented.

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There are two interesting copies of that painting:

* New York, Hispanic Society (Oil on canvas; 62 x 52 cm.)

* Oviedo, Spain (Oil on canvas; 101 x 80 cm.)

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Mary Magdalene by El Greco, Type III

Mary Magdalene, Type III

250px-el_greco_-_the_penitent_magdalene_-_google_art_project
Title: “Mary Magdalene”
Date: 1577 ca.
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 156,5 x 121 cm.
Location: Budapest, Szépmüvészeti Múzeum.

That delightful Magdalene is one of the very few examples of female eroticism in the pictorial corpus of El Greco, together with the two first versions of the Cleansing of the Temple, which belong to his Italian period.

That slight eroticism was not reshown, either in the Spanish versions of the  Cleansing of the Temple, or in the other four standards of the Magdalene. Actually, despite the fact that she directs her gaze towards Heaven as a source of salvation, her bare shoulder and one of her breasts, casts a doubt on the sincerity of her determination to transcend mundane experiences.

Also, the landscape is quite unusual, because on the left side of that painting there is a beautiful sunrise over what seems to be a Venetian lagoon, probably an evocation of the earlier stay of El Greco in that city.

Besides, that canvas is an exception in the pictorial corpus of El Greco, not only because of that touch of feminine eroticism, but also with regard to the brightness of the cloudscape, quite different from the usual tempestuous skies of his Spanish phase. Indeed, the clouds are not as menacing as in most works by El Greco. In Type III light beams shine down from the sky towards Magdalene, perhaps indicating a moment of blissfulness and joy, both individual and cosmic.

Therefore, it is likely to be assumed that this canvas was initiated in Italy, or in his very first Spanish stage, or maybe it is a copy of a work previously made in Italy. Perhaps it is an homage Theotokopoulos made to the city of Venice, and to the Venetian school of painting.

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Dos copias del Expolio “De Jorge Manuel” (Vindicación de Jorge Manuel – IV -)

He comentado en un “Post” anterior, que Wethey cataloga un total de diecinueve réplicas del original del “Expolio”, cuatro de las cuales son de medio cuerpo. En cinco de las diecinueve pinturas vio la mano de El Greco, y las otras catorce serían obras del taller o copias posteriores. Dos de estas obras suelen incluirse bajo el epígrafe “De Jorge Manuel“; una de ellas porqué es la única obra firmada por el hijo de El Greco, y la otra porqué también se le atribuye y porqué comparte muchas características con la primera. Wethey menciona otras obras de similares características, que seguramente se podrían incluir en el mismo epígrafe,  pero que, debido a su pésima conservación, repintes, recortes, malas restauraciones, etc. no merecen mucha atención.

El mayor interés de “El Expolio” del Museo del Prado consiste en que es la única obra que permite atestiguar fehacientemente la autoría de Jorge Manuel, porqué es su única obra firmada. Existen otras varias obras atribuibles, pero su autoría no es tan irrefutable, y son pinturas de factura bastante desigual, lo cual podría hacer pensar que no todas son obra del mismo artista. Ciertamente, Jorge Manuel, debió pasar por varias etapas, y su habilidad debió mejorar con el tiempo, pero en todo caso “El Expolio” de El Prado es un documento muy valioso para valorar al hijo de El Greco.

Expolio de El Prado

Título:El Expolio
Fecha: 1595 ? -1606 ?
Medio: Óleo sobre tela.
Dimensiones: 106,8 x 69 cm.
Localización: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Resulta obvia la gran diferencia de calidad pictórica entre esta tela del Prado y el sublime “Expolio” de la Catedral de Toledo. Pero además hay varios detalles que, como comenté en el “Post” anterior, sugieren que los dos “Expolios de Jorge Manuel”  no están basados en el original de la catedral, sinó en la réplica de la parroquia de Santa Leocadia.

Wethey ya apreció esta posibilidad, alegando la mayor accesibilidad de esta pintura con respecto a la de la sacristía de la catedral. De hecho, las semejanzas con la obra de Sta. Leocadia son evidentes: *Sobre la cabeza de Jesús hay una corona de espinas; *Las figuras están más alejadas del espectador, o sea del primer término ; *El grupo de las tres Marías adquiere mayor relevancia, formando medias figuras alargadas, superiores a las del original. *El rostro del personaje con armadura es algo diferente. *En segundo término, a la derecha, se ha representado un hombre anciano y canoso, de espaldas al espectador. *El personaje que está a su derecha y que en el original muestra toda la cabeza, aquí queda parcialmente oculto. *En el cielo las nubes ascienden y convergen formando una especie de cono. *El rostro de la Virgen muestra un dolor más evidente.

Wethey se muestra especialmente crítico con esta obra, comentando: “La realización extraordinariamente pobre hace pensar que esta obra es de la juventud de Jorge Manuel, porqué sus pinturas posteriores, como las de Titulcia, son bastante mejores. La totalidad del dibujo es torpe, angulosa y dura, lo cual hace que esta réplica sea en realidad una caricatura del original de su padre” (pg.199, obra citada en Bibliografía)

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Aunque Wethey sea excesivamente severo, resulta evidente la pobreza artística de la obra del Prado, respecto de “El Expolio” de la Iglesia de Orgaz (Toledo), de tanta calidad que tanto Camón Aznar como Mayer  la consideraron obra de la mano de El Greco.  Esta obra comparte las características que he mencionado, referidas a la tela del Prado, lo cual parece confirmar su origen común a partir de la obra de Santa Leocadia. Con todo, Pérez Sánchez notó que la mano del esbirro cogiendo la cuerda a la derecha de Jesús, es muy semejante al de la versión del “Expolio” de Múnich. Esto sólo se repite en esta copia de Orgaz y en la del Museo de Lyon, mientras que en la versión del Prado está solamente bosquejada.

Título:El Expolio
Fecha: 1583 ? -1606 ?
Medio: Óleo sobre tela.
Dimensiones: 75 x 43 cm.
Localización: Iglesia Parroquial de Orgaz, Toledo(imagen procedente de su pág.web)

Se ignora cuando y porqué llegó esta obra a Orgaz, aunque se sabe que Jorge Manuel trabajó en un retablo para la iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario (1606), en el que quizás estuvo incluido este “Expolio“. En 1925, esta obra fue trasladada a la Catedral de Toledo, donde permaneció hasta 1952, cuando fue devuelto a Orgaz. Posiblemente este “exilio” lo salvó de la destrucción, ya que la mayor parte de los retablos de Orgaz fueron destruidos durante la Guerra Civil por elementos revolucionarios.

Comenta Wethey sobre la obra de Orgaz: “Tengo la impresión de que este ejemplo es una copia de Jorge Manuel, tardía y mejor que la del Prado“(pg.199, citada en Bibliografía). Según esto, la cualidad pictórica de Jorge Manuel habría mejorado mucho con respecto a la previa versión del Prado.

Otra teoría es que sea una obra de la mano de El Greco, con posible colaboración del taller. Cabe señalar la firma (apócrifa ?) “Doménikos Theotokópoulos epioiei“, en un papel pintado abajo a la derecha. Entonces la versión del Prado sería una copia de Jorge Manuel de la tela de Orgaz, la cual sería obra de su padre realizada con anterioridad.

Lo más lógico es pensar que la tela de Orgaz sea una colaboración del taller y de Jorge Manuel, con un toque final de El Greco, quien la habría firmado dando su “visto bueno“. Esto no aclara si la pintura del Prado es una copia posterior y mediocre de Jorge Manuel. O viceversa, si la versión de Orgaz es una copia mejorada de la obra del Prado, obra segura y firmada del hijo de El Greco.

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Bibliografía y Webgrafía:
Wethey, Harold E; El Greco y su Escuela, Vol II; Edic. Guadarrama; Madrid, 1967
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Noguer Rizzoli; Milano-1969
Álvarez Lopera, José; El Greco, La Obra esencial; Editorial Sílex; Madrid-2014
http://www.villadeorgaz.es/orgaz-patrimonio-religioso-museo-expolio.htm     magnífica página web, con cumplida información sobre “El Expolio

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Landscapes by El Greco ( II )

 

Three versions of “Laocoön” are mentioned, one in the first and another one in the second inventories made after the death of El Greco, but only one canvas of that subject has survived. Moreover, this is his only remaining picture of a mythological character.

Referring to the background of the remaining “Laocoön”, Theotokópoulos places the classical subject against a rather gloomy view of a city, which is very alike the “View and Plan of Toledo”. Maybe his use of that city for his depiction was based on a local legend, according to which, the people of Toledo descended from the Trojans.

Title:Laocoön
Date: 1600-14 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 142 x 193 cm.
Location: National Gallery (Washington) .

El Greco creates a mysterious background, which is both similar and different to the sunny “View and Plan of Toledo”. That city becomes a striking setting of illogically conceived space, conceived with dark yellow and green coloration. A threatening sky looms over Toledo, and the high horizon is dominated by turbulent shades of grey and swirling clouds, which transmits a strange sense of doom.

As a matter of fact, in his Spanish phase El Greco never painted a clearly “sunny” landscape. In diurnal scenes, the Sun never shines perceptibly: rather seems to be an imprecise time of a cloudy day. The sky often seem to show an impending storm, sometimes with lightning-like lights, and the austerity of the Castilian plateau usually turns into a landscape full of greenery, in a kind of surreal, dream-like vision.

In the episodes that, according to the Gospels, take place during the night, he used to paint the Moon half hidden by a cloudy sky, which is noticeable in the several versions of “The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane”.

Title:The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
Date: 1590-98 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 102 x 131 cm.
Location: National Gallery, London.

In these works (notably in those of horizontal shape) the painter dispenses with several conventions, either naturalistic or purely logical. Both the large stone where Jesus is praying and the place over which the angel rests, could be either a rock or a “solid cloud”, like those often depicted in many other works of El Greco.

The sleeping Apostles do not bear relation of scale with the other figures, as they are strangely small. I think it is a “symbolic landscape” as the incoherent elements may have meaning: the lack of scale of the group of Apostles into a sort of cave may symbolize their distance from reality due to their dreams, while the curious rock behind Jesus perhaps symbolizes a spiritual protection against the coming soldiers.

These landscapes hardly ever hint at the season of the year, and besides it is interesting to note that El Greco never painted any explicit winter background, let alone a snowy landscape, in spite of the fact that he depicted the top of a snowy mountain in a few canvases.

White lilies, roses and other flowers are often painted in backdrops of two subjects whose iconography is similar: the “Assumption of the Virgin” and the “Immaculate Conception“. It might be presumed that both subjects take place either in spring or in summer, as in these two examples of “the Immaculate Conception“.

Palladio-Spain-027-ElGreco-Inmaculada-SJuan
Title:The Immaculate Conception”
Date: 1580 x 85 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 236 x 118 cm.
Location: Museo de la Santa Cruz (Toledo).

But there is a curious surprise in “The Immaculate Conception” above seen: El Greco depicted the “Templum Domini” like the reconstruction of the Temple of Pola, made by Palladio (I Quattro libri dell’architettura, IV-109)

Palladio-Spain-028-ElGreco-Inmaculada-SJuan - Detalle

As a matter of fact, 130 books were mentioned in the two inventories made by Jorge Manuel after the death of El Greco. His library included several copies of the treatise of Vitruvius, and several other architectural treatises, such as those by Sebastiano Serlio, Vignola and Andrea Palladio. El Greco advocated for the predominance of painting in relation to sculpture and architecture, and he created the architectural settings for some of the altarpieces into which his canvases were set. Also, he wrote an architectural treatise, which is nowadays lost.

Title:The Immaculate Conception
Date: 1605-10 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 108 x 82  cm.
Location: Collection Thyssen, Madrid.

El Greco was once again inspired by Toledo, which is depicted as a backdrop of both canvases. However, those imagined classic pavilions, increase the timelessness and the poetic nature of the scene.

In the “Assumption of the Virgin” or “Immaculate” (named “Oballe“), Doménikos exhibits an amazing freedom that greatly enhances the dreamlike, surreal nature of the painting: there are two celestial bodies, one half hidden by the tunic of the angel, another almost touching his extended wing.

 
Title:Assumption of the Virgin, or Immaculate, called “Oballe”
Date: 1607-13 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 347 x 174 cm.
Location: Museo de la Santa Cruz (Toledo)

We might interpret them as the Moon together with the Sun (early in the morning or at the end of a cloudy day). But actually Domenikos depicts the “Laurentian litany symbols”: “Rose of Jericho, Lily among thorns, Templum Domini, Tower of David, Heaven’s gate, Rod of Jesse… pulchra ut luna, elected ut Sol”.

The symbols of the “Laurentian litany“, (lilies, roses, a clasic pavilion interpreted as a Heavens Gate, Sun and Moon…) together with elements of naturalistic quality, might explain the poetic character of those backgrounds. This time, El Greco places a classic pavillion just over the Alcantara bridge. Nevertheless, only the unbelievable mastership of El Greco could create such a convincing masterpiece. For instance, in this detail (clear after a recent restoration) it can be seen the great aptitude of Doménikos as a painter of landscapes.

According to the Gospels, the sky was full of darkness during the agony of the Redeemer. Therefore, the lack of sunlight in the iconography followed by the painter is remarkable many variants of “Christ on the cross“. Of course, in some canvases there is greater or lesser task of the workshop, but in best variants of “Christ on the cross with landscape of Toledo” some of the finest landscapes of El Greco are found

Title:Christ on the cross with landscape of Toledo
Date: 1605-10 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 111 x 69 cm.
Location: Fundación Banco Santander.

On the right side, the bridge of Alcántara and surrounding hills are painted with great ability, giving the impression of a wet field illuminated by lightning and wet by fresh rain. The left side shows an amazing Jerusalem, where the biblical Temple is replaced by the Cathedral of Toledo, with a great imaginary dome, located in an unlikely place, where darkness gives the city a phosphorescent appearance. The left side shows a little lesser quality compared with the right one, and maybe its architectural appearance and its imaginary Dome refer to the professional abilities and achievements of Jorge Manuel.

More often than not, El Greco used either the city of Toledo or its surroundings as scenic background for his compositions. There are a few exceptions, and one of them is closely related to the previous example. Indeed, Domenikos painted some versions of “Christ on the cross in a landscape with riders“, in which there is seen a building reminiscent of the Monastery of el Escorial.

Title:Christ on the cross in a landscape with riders
Date: 1600-05 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 158 x 97 cm.
Location: Private Collection ?.

Not only in this subject Theotokopoulos moved the action to the vicinity of the monastery of el Escorial. In the background of his colossal image of Saint John Baptist there is also, on the right, the rather sketchy silhouette of that Monastery, whereas on the left side  the top of a snowy mountain is seen, which is unusual in the corpus of Doménikos.

Title:Saint John Baptist
Date: 1595 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 111 x 66 cm.
Location: M. H de Young Memorial Museum (San Francisco, U.S.A).

Around 1587 El Greco started his series of “Saints in pairs”, where sometimes the background  either disappears or it is unimportant. Nevertheless, in some works there are interesting features which deserve our attention. For instance, the landscape almost hidden by the enormous figures of Saint Andrew and Saint Francis has, on the right, one of the few examples of a snowy mountain, like in the above seen “Sain John Baptist

San Andrés y San Francisco

Títle: “Saint Andrew and Saint Francis ”
Date: 1585-90 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 167 x 113 cm.
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The landscape in “Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist” is quite different, rather naturalistic. On its right side there is a tiny, sketchy building, which might be El Escorial according to some scholars. Nevertheless, it seems as though in that phase El Greco wanted to move his characters away, either from Toledo, from El Escorial, or from any oner recognizable place.

S.Joan Bautista i San Joan Evangelista

Title:St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist
Date: 1595 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 110 x 86 cm.
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

This sort of “indifference from Natural World” is noticeable in several pictures of the “heightened”, definite, final period of El Greco, especially in their backgrounds and/or natural details. For instance, in the breathtaking “Baptism of Christ“, the impressive figures of Jesus, Saint John Baptist and angels, stand on two large rocks, among which runs the River Jordan

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Title:Baptism of Christ
Date: 1608-14 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 330 x 211 cm.
Location: Hospital de Tavera (Toledo).

According to the formal iconography, the River Jordan  should have been represented with great relevance. Instead,  El Greco reduced it to a small and rather symbolic thread of water running between two large rocks. 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Ed. Noguer Rizzoli; Milano-1969
Álvarez Lopera, José; El Greco. La Obra esencial; Editorial Sílex; Madrid-2014
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967

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Landscapes by El Greco ( I )

 

Prior to the “View of Toledo” (ca. 1587), stricto sensu landscape painting was a rarity in XVI century Spain. Neither is any landscape painter known in Toledo, nor any acceptable picture representing that city.  Actually, landscapes were discouraged by  Catholic Counter-Reformation which, rigidly interpreted, was against both Classicism and Humanism, and viewed the subject of human nature and Nature in general as corrupt and deceptive. Therefore, it can be taken for granted that with this striking work, El Greco initiates the Spanish landscape painting school.

Several landscapes of Toledo are mentioned in the two inventories which were made after the death of Theotokopoulos. But among the paintings remaining today, only two of them are real landscapes: the “View of Toledo“, and the unfinished “View and Plan of Toledo“. Along with these two canvases, Wethey mentions another picture as a possible fragment of a landscape by El Greco. But this is fragmentary, repainted and in such poor state that it does not deserve much interest.

But Doménikos also painted cityscapes and landscapes as a background of several works. His Cretan and Italian paintings contain interesting landscapes, but it is in his Spanish stage where he reached his peculiar style, and his most representative backgrounds. Perhaps the “borderline” between the Italian and the Spanish backgrounds, is found in the “Penitent Magdalene” (ca.1577), a canvas started either in Italy or in his very first Spanish stage. Indeed, on the left side of that picture there is a beautiful sunrise in what seems to be a Venetian lagoon, probably an evocation of his recent stay in Venice.

Title: “The Penitent Magdalene“
Date: 1577 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 156,5 x 121 cm.
Location: Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest).

In the “St. Sebastian”, painted almost immediately after his arrival in Spain, there is a landscape that can be described as an Italian one. Actually, in that picture El Greco depicts with unusual “venetian” and naturalistic precision the branches and the leaves of the fig tree  where the martyr is attached, which was never repeated in his posterior works (curiously enough, there are more arrows stuck in the tree than in the body of Sebastian)

Title:Saint Sebastian
Date: 1577 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 191 x 152 cm.
Location: Museo de la Catedral de Palencia.

On the contrary, in the “Martyrdom of St. Maurice“, a work that is close in time to that “St. Sebastian“, Doménikos avoids almost completely any landscape, since the multitude of characters, both in the foreground and in the background, practically hide a strange scenery of barren hills.

As I have said before, Theotokópoulos painted several cityscapes and landscapes as a background of several works. These backgrounds nearly always represent Toledo and its neighbouring “cigarrales” as if they were seen from the road that goes to Madrid. And sometimes these landscapes seem to be based on his famous “View of Toledo“, where there are several unconventional and amazing features that are discussed below.

Title:View of Toledo
Date: 1587 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 121 x 109 cm.
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)

Indeed, in that picture, the terrain and the orography are unreal, the “remontada” to the castle of San Servando is exaggerated, some edifices show their façades whereas some show their profiles. Some buildings are either imagined or their relative importance is manipulated, while and the positions of the Cathedral and the Alcazar are reversed.

It is not possible to be sure either as the moment of the day or the season of the year, and the banks of the river Tajo look with unusual greenery. It seems as though an electric thunderstorm is gathering, or perhaps with that dreamy light El Greco wanted to depict a twilight or night-time scene.

Besides its intellectual significance, there are hints of some everyday aspects of Toledo as well. In the sixteenth century Toledo had a clothmaking industry that was important to its economy. El Greco depicted a group of people on the banks of the Tajo, perhaps involved with the fulling of the cloth when it was washed, beaten and dried before being dyed, (which was done in small mills around the river), while other group of people in the river seem to be fishing.

BB TORCH 965Sedef's corner)

Obviously, in the 16th century  a painting made by a “plein air” technique was unthinkable, let alone a nocturnal cityscape painted directly on the stony and rather dangerous outskirts of Toledo, not even in full moon. Surely, Domenikos painted that canvas in his studio, based on his memory and perhaps on some sketches. Altogether we find an unreal, suggestive Toledo of legend, which appears to reflect the inner world of the artist, rather than the objective reality of that city. For that matter, that picture may be regarded as an “expressionistic” landscape avant la lettre. The hypothesis that this landscape had been the bottom of a trimmed work (maybe a “Christ on the Cross“) has been strongly denied by authors such Wethey.

Jerusalem, Tours, Tuscany or Troy become Toledo, whose emblematic buildings are the background in front of which El Greco depicted subjects as “The Laocoön”, “St. Bernardino of Siena”, “St. Martin of Tours”, “St. Joseph and the Child Jesus” and several other characters, who obviously could never have set foot in the outskirts of that city.

The light of these views is as unreal as it is in the aforesaid “View of Toledo“. Often they are night scenes, illuminated by the silver light of the Moon, which sometimes seems to light up like the Sun. On other occasions, we cannot say at what time of day the scene takes place, because El Greco depicts his paintings subjectively, creating atmospheres which are both unrealistic and full of vitality.

Several theories may help us understand the logic behind such apparently incongruous landscapes, although no definitive explanation can be found. Maybe the commissioners of these works were from Toledo, and they requested the inclusion of the familiar landscape as a sign of identity. Perhaps Doménikos, rather than imitating the histories he represented, reworked them in order to produce intellectual versions of them. Or maybe he tried introducing the viewer into the picture by replicating the everyday experience of the observer.

Two obvious examples that remind us very much of the “View of Toledo ” were painted for the chapel of Saint Joseph in Toledo: the “St. Joseph and the Child Jesus” and the “St. Martin and the Beggar”.

Title:St. Joseph and the Child Jesus
Date: 1608-14
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 289 x 147 cm.
Location: Capilla de San José (Toledo)

In that magnificent first picture, a cityscape very similar to the “View of Toledo” is divided into two by the imposing figures of St. Joseph and the Child, looming over the landscape with a distant view of Toledo and the river Tajo.In the second one, the clouds and the lights convey a rather “venetian” and “fairy tale” atmosphere, as in the aforesaid “Penitent Magdalene” (ca.1576)

A14392.jpg
Title:Saint Martin and the Beggar
Date: 1608-14
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 143,3 x 100,4
Location: Art Institute of Chicago

Exactly the same view which appears in “Saint Martin and the Beggar”, is found in the lower part of the “St. Sebastian” in the Prado Museum (Madrid). It is interesting to note as El Greco represented in each of these three works, (on the right) a waterwheel, a sort of hydraulic mill as they must have been common in the seventeenth century in the river Tajo.

Title: “Saint Sebastian (lower part)“
Date: 1610-14 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 211,5 x 111,5 cm. (Upper and lower part together)
Location: Museo del Prado (Madrid)

This wonderful canvas was cut into two different pieces at some point in the nineteenth century. The upper part contains the body of the Saint, whereas the lower one contains his legs and an interesting landscape of Toledo.

In contrast with the so far seen pictures, “View and Plan of Toledo” is surely inspired by the “vedute” of Venice, and offers a multiple viewpoint. Indeed, in addition to its perspectival appearance, it contains a plan of the city, held up by a young man (maybe a younger Jorge Manuel). This complex composition was painted with the sketchy handling of the last stage of El Greco, and includes an allegory of the Tajo river, seen as a golden sculpture of a young boy, holding a pitcher that pours water and consequently richness.

Title:View and Plan of Toledo
Date: 1608-14 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas
Dimension: 132 x 228 cm.
Location: Museo del Greco (Toledo)

There may be identified the most emblematic buildings in Toledo: the fortress of San Servando, the Alcántara bridge, the Alcázar, the monastery of San Bartolomé, the Bisagra, Cambrón and Alfonso VI gates… In addition, great prominence is given to the Hospital of Tavera, depicted on a cloud, transferring it from its actual setting so that its façade could be clearly shown in the foreground. This curious relocation maybe is a clear allusion to the administrator of that building, Pedro Salazar de Mendoza, a friend of El Greco and the probable commissioner of that canvas. However, El Greco himself explains this atypical displacement above the plan of the city:

“Ha sido forzoso poner el Hospital de Juan Tavera en forma de modelo porqué no solo venia a cubrir la puerta de Visagra mas subía el cimborrio o cúpula de manera que sobrepujaba la ciudad y así una vez puesto como modelo y movido de su lugar me ha parecido mostrar la haz antes que otra parte, y en lo demás de cómo viene con la ciudad se verá en la planta”.  

Despite the fact that the Sun is not visible, it is one of the sunniest landscapes ever depicted by El Greco. Besides, on the sky there is the iconic image of the Virgin placing the chasuble on Saint Ildefonso (the patron Saint of Toledo).

Plano y Vista de Toledo (II)

Whereas the aforeseen “View of Toledo” has a much more hypnotic quality, and besides may be regarded as an “expressionistic” lansdcape, the “View and Plan of Toledo” seems to anticípate Paul Cézanne, and even the cubist landcapes of Pablo Picasso.  Hence I  think this enigmatic and beautiful cityscape should at least be appreciated as much as the more renowned “View of Toledo“.

1280px-Paul_Cézanne_Philadelphia Art Museum

Artist: Paul Cézanne
Títle:Montagne Sainte Victoire ”
Date: 1904
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimension: 70 x 92 cm.
Location: Philadelphia Art Museum.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Ed. Noguer Rizzoli; Milano-1969
Álvarez Lopera, José; El Greco. La Obra esencial; Editorial Sílex; Madrid-2014
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967

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Publicat dins de Fondo arquitectónico, Maria Magdalena, Mary Magdalene, Paisaje | Etiquetat com a , , , , , , , , , | Deixa un comentari

Una variación sobre “El Expolio”

El Expolio“, que desde su adquisición ha permanecido en la Sacristía de la Catedral de Toledo, es una obra maestra del El Greco, y una obra capital de la pintura universal. A pesar de que se trata de un tema muy inusual en la iconografía occidental (no consta explícitamente en los Evangelios Canónicos, solamente en el apócrifo de Nicodemo), de las dificultades teológicas y estéticas que alegó el Capítulo de la Catedral de Toledo y del exiguo precio que tuvo que aceptar finalmente Doménikos, no cabe duda de que “El Expolio” debió crear controversias e impresionar muy favorablemente a los ciudadanos de Toledo.

Título:El Expolio
Autor:   El Greco.
Fecha: 1577-79
Medio: Óleo sobre Tela
Medidas: 285 x 173 cm.
Ubicación actual:  Sacristía de la Catedral de Toledo

En Efecto, Wethey cita 19 versiones de esta obra maestra (4 de las cuales son solo de medio cuerpo). Estas 19 versiones son de mayor o menor calidad, con mayor o menor intervención del maestro, y/o de su hijo Jorge Manuel y/o de otros ayudantes del taller, pero en todo caso demuestran el interés suscitado por la colosal obra maestra, que actualmente continúa en la sacristía de la Catedral de Toledo. Sin embargo, en cada uno de los dos inventarios realizados tras el fallecimiento de el Greco, solo se cita un cuadro de este tema, lo cual resulta curioso, dado el elevado número de versiones y copias conservadas, y posiblemente de otras copias actualmente desaparecidas.

Una de las versiones más importantes es la procedente de la iglesia de Santa Leocadia (Toledo), actualmente en el Museo de la Santa Cruz de esta ciudad. Aunque no sea considerada la mejor copia, creo que es muy interesante porqué es la base de otras dos versiones, llamadas “de Jorge Manuel“, y que analizaré en otro “Post“.

 Título: “El Expolio”
Autor: * obra de taller con posibles intervenciones de El Greco.
* Obra auténtica de El Greco, según Cossío, Mayer y Camón Aznar.
Fecha: 1580-85 ca.
Medio: Óleo sobre Tela
Medidas: 186 x 126 cm.
Procedencia:  *  Iglesia de Santa Leocadia (Toledo)
*  Museo de San Vicente (Toledo)
Ubicación acual: Museo de la Santa Cruz (Toledo)

Es una pintura bien conservada, y de tan buena calidad que algunos autores la han considerado obra auténtica de El Greco. Como vemos, el formato es diferente, menos alargado. El colorido es magnífico, si bien algunos colores están alterados: por ejemplo la túnica verde del personaje de la derecha. Sin embargo, el autor o autores del cuadro no consiguen la intensidad emocional de la obra original, hecho particularmente visible en el rostro de Cristo, que aparece apagado y sin la excelsa nobleza del cuadro de la Catedral.

El tamaño relativo del grupo de “Las tres Marías” es algo mayor y el rostro de la Virgen es más visible, la parte superior está disminuida, y el cuadro no está firmado (como si lo está la obra de la Catedral). Pero la característica más sobresaliente es la “Corona de Espinas“, del la cabeza de Cristo, que no aparece en el original, y que reaparecerá en las dos copias llamadas “de Jorge Manuel“, que trataré en otro “Post“.

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BIBLIOGRAFÍA  Y  WEBGRAFÍA:

http://www.villadeorgaz.es/orgaz-patrimonio-religioso      muy interesante página web, con cumplida información sobre “El Expolio
Harold E, Wethey; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Ed. Noguer Rizzoli; Barcelona-1970

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Publicat dins de El Expolio, Jorge Manuel | Etiquetat com a , , , | Deixa un comentari