“The Holy Trinity”
by El Greco
“The Holy Trinity” by El Greco is a dramatic and expressionistic depiction of Jesus Christ ascending into heaven following his journey on Earth. The Trinity is represented by: God the Father, with a Miter on his head, his Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit symbolised as a dove. Six grieving angels watch over the uprising of the body, while small, cherub faces gather at his feet.
El Greco skilfully captures the weight of Christ’s body as he is held up by his father’s arms by placing the elongated Christ figure at an awkward angle. El Greco’s use of brilliant colours and the emotion imbued into the faces make this masterpiece a moving example of religious art. This painting is one of El Greco´s first commissioned pieces in Toledo; it was created for the attic of the main altarpiece at the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo.
Doménikos Theotokópoulos, widely known as El Greco, Spanish for “The Greek”, was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. The artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος (Doménikos Theotokópoulos), often adding the word Κρής (Krēs, “Cretan”). He is best known for elongated figures and for marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.
El Greco was born in Crete, which at that time was part of the Republic of Venice, and the centre of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master Byzantine art before travelling to Venice to work; then he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.
El Greco’s style was met with puzzlement by his 16th-century contemporaries, but he found greater appreciation in modern times and is today regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism. His works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers, and he is considered, as an artist, so individual that he belongs to no traditional school.
The Holy Trinity
- Title: The Holy Trinity
- Artist: El Greco
- Year: 1579
- Medium: Oil on panel
- Dimensions: Height: 300 cm (118.1 in). Width: 179 cm (70.5 in).
- Museum: Prado Museum, Museo del Prado
- Name: El Greco – “The Greek”
- Greek: Doménikos Theotokópoulos
- Birth: 1541 – Heraklion, Crete
- Died: 1614 (aged 73) – Toledo, Spain
- Nationality: Greek
- Movement: Mannerism
- Notable works:
Explore the Prado Museum
- “Las Meninas” or “The Ladies-in-Waiting” by Diego Velázquez
- “The Triumph of Bacchus” by Diego Velázquez
- “Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary” by Raphael
- “The Triumph of Death” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Saturn Devouring His Son” by Francisco Goya
- “The Third of May 1808” by Francisco Goya
- “The Judgment of Paris” by Peter Paul Rubens
- “Adam and Eve” by Peter Paul Rubens
- “The Holy Trinity” by El Greco
- “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by El Greco
- Masterpieces of the Prado Museum
- Prado Museum
- A Byzantine Icon Master from Crete who studied under Titian and found acceptance in Spain.
El Greco Facts
- El Greco was a painter, sculptor, and architect.
- El Greco was born in the Kingdom of Candia, current day Crete, which was then part of the Republic of Venice.
- At the age of 22, El Greco was already a Byzantine Icon Master.
- An official document named him as a “master” or “maestro” of the local painter’s guild on Crete.
- Despite being Greek, El Greco was a devout Catholic.
- Some art historians believe he converted from Greek Orthodoxy to become part of the Catholic Cretan minority.
- The two major religions of the Kingdom of Candia were Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy.
- El Greco moved to Venice around 1567, at the age of 26, to complete his training.
- El Greco studied with Titian, in Venice, the most renowned painter of his day.
- El Greco combined Byzantine traditions with Western style.
- El Greco meaning “The Greek” was his nickname due to his Greek nationality.
- In 1570 El Greco moved to Rome, and he was received at the Palazzo Farnese, which had become the centre of the artistic and intellectual life of the city.
- Michelangelo and Raphael had just died when El Greco moved to Rome.
- His stay in Rome wasn’t successful. He acquired more enemies than friends, with his Venetian Renaissance painting style compared to Roman and Tuscan painting.
- In 1577 he moved to Toledo where he produced some of his best-known paintings and lived there until death.
- While most of El Greco’s art was in the Mannerist style, he had a unique style.
- El Greco dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries, but El Greco found appreciation in the 20th century.
- El Greco is today regarded as the predecessor of Expressionism and Cubism.
- Famous for elongated figures.
- Picasso claimed that El Greco was the only Cubist painter before him and that he drew his inspiration for inventing Cubism from El Greco.
- Typically signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek – “Domenikos Theotokopoulos”
- El Greco influenced artists like Picasso, as well as writers like Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis.
El Greco Quotes
“Art is everywhere you look for it.”
“I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.”
“Can the darkness condemn the light?”
“The language of art is celestial in origin and can only be understood by the chosen.”
“You must study the Masters but guard the original style that beats within your soul and put to the sword those who would try to steal it.”
“I hold the imitation of colour to be the greatest difficulty of art.”
“It is only after years of struggle and deprivation that the young artist should touch colour – and then only in the company of his betters.”
“Artists create out of a sense of desolation. The spirit of creation is an excruciating, intricate exploration from within the soul.”
“I suffer for my art and despise the witless moneyed scoundrels who praise it.”
“I was created by the all-powerful God to fill the universe with my masterpieces.’
“Art is everywhere you look for it, hail the twinkling stars for they are God’s careless splatters.”
“I paint because the spirits whisper madly inside my head.”
– El Greco
Photo Credit: El Greco [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons