Monday, February 19, 2007

El Greco and Toledo, Spain

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)(1541–1614)
View of Toledo 1597-99
Oil on canvas; 47 3/4 x 42 3/4 in. (121.3 x 108.6 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)(1541–1614)
View and Plan of Toledo c. 1610
Oil on canvas, 132 x 228 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo

View of Toledo is one of the earliest independent landscapes in Western art.

In 1577, El Greco emigrated first to Madrid, then to Toledo.

El Greco did not plan to settle permanently in Toledo, since his final aim was to win the favour of Philip II and make his mark in his court. Lacking the favour and patronage of the king, El Greco was obliged to remain in Toledo. He lived there for the remainder of his life, nearly forty years.

Previously the city was the political capital of Spain. In the time of El Greco, it was still the ecclesiastical capital and the centre of religious reform in Spain after the Council of Trent.

The old city is located on a mountaintop, surrounded on three sides by a bend in the Tagus River. The view in both paintings is from the North. He has imaginatively reconfigured the city, showing the cathedral not in its actual position but to the left of the Alcázar palace.

Although its subject is secular, View of Toledo has an undeniably spiritual, even apocalyptic, dimension.

Toledo features in many of his paintings: in the Laocoön , the Christ in Agony on the Cross, and the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception in all of which it takes on an apocalyptical character appropriate to the themes.