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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

El Greco: Saints Peter and Paul





Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco
 1541 - 1614
Saints Peter and Paul
1587 - 1592
Oil on canvas
121.5 cm  x  105 cm
The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg


El Greco painted all the Apostles many times 

Many times he painted Saint Paul as well as Saint Peter

This example shows the Cretan influence on El Greco (compare and contrast it with the Cretan icon of the two saints in the post below) He did not leave his native Crete until 1567

When he was born Crete was a Venetian colony. It was to remain so after his death. 

El Greco  had no desire to be assimilated to the Spaniards. He always stressed the fact that he was a Greek,

 He used the word Greco as part of his name He signed himself in his works in Greek characters.

St Paul appears a great number of times in El Greco's works. He is depicted with remarkable consistency

It was of course St Paul`s friend and disciple Titus who was ordained first bishop of the church of the Cretans, a fact which El Greco would have been more than aware

In this work both saints together convey a different meaning from that of the icon like work in the post below

This is a more traditional work  With his keys, St Peter is shown in the fullness of his Petrine Ministry - a very important point in the Counter-Reformation, His home in Toledo was one of the great centres of the Counter-Reformation in Europe, possibly only next in importance to Rome. 

In The Acts of the Apostles, it is Peter and Paul who are shown fully developing the Apostolic Mission in the early Church

Peter and Paul quarelled. They reconciled. Here we see them reconciled and in harmony. The folds of their respective clothes and the depiction of their arms suggest a combination of the two figures.

However there is also in the painting a separation between the two figures. Separate and individual but united in a common faith and common purpose

One aspect of the traditional iconography would also hve been apparent in those times on 16th century Toledo: the combining of the Jewish and Gentile traditions  which each of the two Apostles came to represent. At that time in Toledo conversos were held in suspicion by members of the Church. \But it was from the ranks of the conversos, there flowered some of the greatest figures which the modern Catholic Church has ever known, St Teresa of Avila being only one example.

In 1568, she set up in Toledo her second Discalced Carmelite nunnery  that was almost entirely comprised of coversas, At the time Toledo was the most notoriously anti-Jewish, anti-converso, city in Spain