Un “Greco” en Martín Muñoz de las Posadas

Martín Muñoz de las Posadas es un agradable pueblo de la Provincia de Segovia, en el antiguo Camino Real entre Madrid y Valladolid. Debe su nombre a un noble burgalés a quien fue adjudicado este asentamiento por su participación en la Reconquista de Toledo, a finales del s. XI. Siendo parada importante entre Madrid y Valladolid, existían casas destinadas al alojamiento (Posadas)

Su interesante Iglesia parroquial de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción atesora uno de los tres (o cuatro) únicos cuadros de El Greco actualmente existentes en Castilla-León. Se trata de “El Calvario” o “Cristo crucificado, con la Virgen, un Donante y San Juan Evangelista“.

 Título:Cristo crucificado, con la Virgen, un Donante y San Juan Evangelista”  o  “El Calvario
Fecha: 1590 ca.
Medio: Óleo sobre tela.
Dimensiones: 174 x 111 cm.
Localización: Iglesia Parroquial de Martín Muñoz de las Posadas.

Andrés Núñez de Madrid, párroco de Santo Tomé de Toledo, donó esta obra a la iglesia de Navalperal del Campo (término municipal de Montuenga, Segovia) en 1601 o 1603. El cuadro posiblemente le pertenecía como muestra de agradecimiento por parte de El Greco, ya que Andrés Núñez habría intervenido en favor suyo en el momento del pago del “Entierro del Señor de Orgaz“, donde Andrés Núñez tal vez seria el oficiante vestido con la capa pluvial, o bien el personaje en el extremo izquierdo, detrás del fraile franciscano.

Hay dos hipótesis sobre el traslado de esta obra desde Navalperal hasta Martín Muñoz de la Posadas. Según una hipótesis, fue trasladada de esta localidad a su ubicación actual en 1834, debido a la desamortización. Otra teoría sostiene que ya estaba en su sitio actual a mediados del s. XVII debido a la crisis de este siglo y al consiguiente despoblamiento de Navalperal.

Harold E. Wethey, considera esta obra como una “Crucifixion Type IV” dentro del corpus pictórico de El Greco, pero es bastante escéptico sobre su valor, ya que cree que es una copia antigua de un original perdido. Sin embargo, Camón Aznar, San Román y Mayer la consideran una obra auténtica de Doménikos, si bien con repintes y diversas restauraciones.

Ciertamente, es una obra poco conocida y valorada dentro de el corpus de El Greco, pero personalmente pienso que es necesaria su vindicación, por su innegable belleza, por la escasez de “Crucifixiones” de este tipo en su corpus pictórico, y por el retrato del donante, que tan interesante papel jugó en la vida de Doménikos.

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Bibliografía:
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Editorial Noguer-Rizzoli; Milán-1969.
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967.
Martín Muñoz de las Posadas; Prodestur Segovia; Diputación de Segovia.
Webgrafía:
http://www.elnortedecastilla.es/segovia/201502/20/miguel-sobrados-martin-munoz-20150220154627.html

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Copy of “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” at El Prado.

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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Bibliography:
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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The Holy Family by El Greco (Type-IV-b)

The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John Baptist

Title:The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John Baptist
Date: 1580-85 ca.
Medium: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 178 x 105 cm.
Location: Museo de la Santa Cruz (Toledo)

“The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John Baptist” (Type-IV-b) at the Museo de la Santa Cruz is thought to have been painted earlier than the picture at El Prado Museum.

Certainly, the picture at El Prado Museum (Type-IV-a) is essentially a variation of that previous canvas. However, there are some important changes, especially with the figure of St. Joseph.

He is depicted as a middle-aged man in the background, behind the left shoulder of the Virgin, but he is not staring at the Mother and Child. Instead, he is looking at the front, and his face is so realistic that it could be said that it is a real portrait.

Certainly, St. Joseph appears as though he was not concerned with the scene. As a matter of fact, there is every indication that El Greco himself had concealed that figure as if he was dissatisfied with it. As a result, that painting became “ The Virgin with the Child Jesus, the Infant St. John and St. Anne”.

In the 4th centenary of El Greco, the entire canvas was not in good condition, and needed a restoration. Consequently, the image of St. Joseph remained hidden until this last restoration was carried out. As a result, that painting became again a “Holy Family with the Infant St. John and St. Anne”, and showed again all its splendid colors and beautiful forms, together with the figure of St. Joseph.

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There is (or there was) a replica of that painting, at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, USA. (Oil on canvas; 90 x 80 cm.). Unfortunately, it was in bad condition. Because in the last restoration had its lower edge cut off, only the upper part of the Infant St. John was visible.

Its authenticity was beyond doubt, but there is not further information about that picture.

 

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Bibliography:
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Editorial Noguer-Rizzoli; Milán-1969.
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967.

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The Holy Family by El Greco (Type-IV-a)

The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John the Baptist.

Title: ” The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John Baptist ”
Date: 1590 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 107 x 69 cm.
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Type IV of the Holy Family by El Greco is more complex than the previous Types, since five characters are depicted, giving greater richness of interpretation to that Type. The personages are restricted in a narrow space, in front of one of the usual tempestuous skies so much to the liking of that painter.

That episode with the infant John the Baptist and St. Anne is not described in the Canonical Gospels, what seems to have not bothered the Counter-Reformation Church.
The Child Jesus is depicted naked, and He seems to return His gaze to the Virgin, unlike the previous versions.

The Virgin Mary centres that composition. She is self-absorbed, covered with a blue mantle. She places her right arm over St. Anne, and she holds the Child Jesus in her lap with both hands. That pose, which is usually known as the pietà, is mostly used to show the Virgin holding the body of Christ after His crucifixion. Possibly, that complex symbolism predicts the eventual death and resurrection of Christ.

St. Anne is represented covered with a white veil and a brown mantle. She is leaning towards the Child, and she prepares to wrap Him with a white linen.

Theotokópoulos depicted St. Joseph as a middle-aged, vigorous man, who observes the scene, discretely emerging behind the left shoulder of the Virgin. He wears a green vest over a white shirt, a kind of clothing typical for a Spanish carpenter at the end of the 16th century, which fits well with the popular idea of that Saint at that time.

On the right foreground, the Infant St. John Baptist is represented somewhat detached from the other characters, directing his gaze to a vague distant point. El Greco depicted him in a rather small scale compared with the rest of the figures. He is painted naked, although the conventional camel skin is hinted behind him. He carries a glass bowl filled with fruits, and takes his left index to his lips, as though he was asking for silence.

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There is a smaller, but high quality variation of the picture mentioned above, unanimously regarded as a work of El Greco.

Title: ” The Holy Family with St. Anne and the Infant John Baptist ”
Date: 1590 ca ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions:  52 x 33 cm.
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington.

In that painting, Domenikos varies the figure of St. Joseph, making him older than in the previous version.Certainly, the age of St. Joseph at the time of his marriage to the Virgin is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels, and there was a debate in the Spanish Church of Counter Reformation about that subject. Perhaps El Greco in those paintings reflected that debate.

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Bibliography:
Frati, Tiziana; La Obra pictórica completa de El Greco; Editorial Noguer-Rizzoli; Milán-1969.
Wethey, Harold E.; El Greco y su Escuela; Ediciones Guadarrama; Madrid-1967.

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The Holy Family by El Greco (Type-III)

The Holy Family with Mary Magdalene -Type-III-

Title: ” The Holy Family with Mary Magdalene ”
Date: 1590-95 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 130 x 100  cm. (unframed).
Location: The Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

Whereas Type-II is basically a reinterpretation of Type-I, this another Type of the Holy Family by El Greco is quite different, since in it a new feeling is present. Certainly, while Type-I and Type-II give a sensation of joy, that painting conveys a feeling of sorrow, despite its sparkling lights, brilliant colors, and the lovely image of the Infant Christ.

Obviously, that picture may not be confused with a variation of the Virgin of the Good Milk, as it might appear in Types I and II.

The Child Jesus is represented elder than in those previous versions. He does not have that blunt, unattractive appearance. Instead, He is beautiful, likable, frolicsome, and quite different from His image in those Types.

While in Type-II El Greco depicted St. Anne, in that canvas Mary Magdalene is represented. Her mournful gaze foreshadows the future suffering of the Infant Christ. That episode with Mary Magdalene is not mentioned in the canonical Gospels. Perhaps it is described in an apocryphal Gospel, or it is coming from a pious tradition, which seems not to have upset the authorities of the Counter-Reformation Church.

The countenance of the Virgin Mary in not as beautiful as in the preceding Types and her thoughtful, faraway look seems to indicate awareness of the fate of her Son. She holds the Child on her lap, as if she was as mediator between Christ and the viewer.

St. Joseph offers a bowl of fruit to the Infant Jesus, full of symbolic meaning: Apples represent the fall of man; cherries, the blood of Christ; peaches, salvation; pears, the sweetness of His virtue.

As in previous Types, that painting is based on previous Venetian depictions of that subject. There are some touches of realism in the faces of the Virgin and the Child Jesus, in the bowl of fruit, and in the familiarity of the scene, which endows that image with certain accessibility and congeniality.

However, Doménikos, rather than representing the concrete reality of these characters, gives to them a visionary quality, an intense spirituality. They are depicted with the usual elongated forms so much to the liking of El Greco in that period. They seem to exist out of time and space, as if they were floating in an imprecise setting, in front of a stormy cloudscape.

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Harold E. Wethey mentioned two copies of that painting:
* One copy had been in the Royal Palace in Bucharest, and nowadays is said to belong to a private collection (Oil on canvas; 84 x 70 cm.).  According to Wethey, it is a mediocre workshop piece, but according to Cossio, Mayer and Camón Aznar, it would be authentic.
* Another copy with several variations is (or it was) in a private collection in Montreal. Wethey assigns it to Jorge Manuel, while Mayer and Camón Aznar consider it an authentic work of El Greco.

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

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The Holy Family by El Greco (Type-I)

The Holy Family – Type-I


Title:The Holy Family “.
Date: 1585-90 ca.
Technique and Support: Oil on Canvas.
Dimensions: 106 x 88 cm.
Location: Hispanic Society, New York.

That Holy Family, (Type-I) is thought to be the first version of that subject painted by El Greco.

The personages present a rather elongated style, showing their contours painted with a very soft modelling, due to the lighting used, which reminds of the Venetian stage of El Greco. The usual bright colours of Mannerism are also present, imprinting their identity, especially on the delightful face of the Virgin.

The Virgin is seated in the centre, holding the Infant Jesus on her lap, while breastfeeding Him. She is beautifully idealized. Her countenance and her posture are regarded as some of the finest images ever painted by Theotokópoulos.

However, the Child Jesus is depicted naked, showing not his divine nature but his gender and humanity. Doménikos represents Him rather too large and in a blunt, too naturalistic way.

St. Joseph is in the background, behind the left shoulder of the Virgin. He is depicted as a middle-aged, rather sturdy man. Despite the fact that he is a little withdrawn from the scene, he looks attentively to the Mother and the Child Jesus. That protective activity of St. Joseph coincides with the new importance given to him by the Counter-Reformation.

El Greco removed any environmental allusion, while the personages are painted against a cloudscape, which confer an air of spirituality to the scene, placing the three characters to the foreground and to the full attention of the viewer.

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   * No copy or variant of that painting (Type-I) is known so far.

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

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The Holy Family by El Greco (Type-II)

The Holy Family with St. Anne – (Type-II)

Title:The Holy Family with Saint Anne“.
Date: 1595 ca.
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 127 x 106 cm.
Location: Hospital de Tavera, Toledo.

In 1595, a contract for the execution of several Altarpieces and a Tabernacle for the Hospital Tavera (also known as “Hospital de Afuera”) in Toledo was commissioned to El Greco.

That important contract comprised architectural parts, sculptures and canvases, and perhaps included that “Holy Family with St. Anne” (Type-II). Certainly, it is known that that painting has been in the Hospital Tavera at least since 1631, but it cannot be assured that it was originally part of that important set. In all probability, that  magnificent canvas was given to the Hospital Tavera by Teresa de Aguilera, and remained there since 1936, when it was damaged by anarchist insurrects.

In that painting, the Virgin Mary is represented while breastfeeding the Infant Jesus, which is sometimes known in iconography as “the Nursing Madonna”. As a matter of fact, that painting (Type-II) is a reinterpretation of Type-I, changing the cloudscape, the attitude of St. Joseph and the appearance of St. Anne.

Although the face of Mary is usually considered the finest female face ever painted by Doménikos, the Infant Jesus is rather blunt and too large.

In comparison with Type-I, the four characters are much closer to the viewer, idea reinforced by the loving gaze and tenderness of Santa Ana – caressing the Child Jesus – and of Saint Joseph – who touches His left feet-.

The figures are very stylized, especially that of the Virgin, and the influence of the Venetian school and Roman Mannerism results in a magnificent chromatic display. Certainly, the bright colors used by Doménikos give a marvelous brilliance and a sensation of joy to that painting, while the bright cloudscape forms a sort of aura around the head of Mary.

The ample robes prevent the viewer from appreciating anatomies, except for the breast of the Virgin and the nude Child. As usual, hands are one of the most interesting features of that painting. They are splendidly depicted and they show those long and delicate fingers, as well the typical gestures so much to the liking of Theotokópoulos.

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   * There is a copy in Budapest Museum of Art (Oil on canvas; 138 x 104 cm.) Date: 1610-20. According to that Museum, it is an authentic work of El Greco. However, Wethey considers that canvas in Budapest a copy made by the workshop.

Title:The Holy Family with Saint Anne “.
Date: 1595 ca.
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Dimensions: 127 x 106 cm.
Location: Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

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Bibliography:

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

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