ΩΡΕΣ ΛΕΙΤΟΥΡΓΙΑΣ: Καθημερινά εκτός Τρίτη 10:00 - 17:00
  Τετάρτη: 10:00 - 22:00
  Κλειστά την Τρίτη και στις αργίες

Η Συλλογή του Παρισιού

Εξερευνήστε τη Συλλογή

Τίτλος έργου / Ονομ. αντικειμένου
Καλλιτέχνης / Δημιουργός
Χρονολογία (YYYY)
Αρ. αρχείου Λ.Π.
Τεχνικές
 

St Francis in Ecstasy



El Greco and Studio (1541-1614)
St Francis in Ecstasy
oil on canvas
AGLC 455 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

St Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was the founder of one of the most popular and influential European religious orders, gaining an immense following. A vogue began in the late 16th century for depictions of the saint enraptured by visions during his ascetic retreat on Mount La Verna, where he received the stigmata and saw the ‘vision of the firebrand’ – indirect references to the vigil of Christ on the Mount of Olives. El Greco was one of those artists who depicted the saint in this austere and meditative mode, already during the painter’s Italian period. Following his move to Spain in 1577, El Greco revisited the subject of St Francis on several occasions, creating works of great expressive intensity, which were then reproduced and copied throughout the 17th century. He painted around ten works depicting St Francis, which enjoyed considerable popularity, particularly in Toledo where he lived, as evidenced by the many variations produced by his studio and the large number of copies that exist. The interest in the subject coincided with the rise of the cult of St Francis in Spain, where the saint’s retreat to practise repentance and his Christological passion became associated with the widespread notion of the Baroque era that death is the only, absolute certainty of the human condition. El Greco produced the most compelling portrayal of the saint: gaunt and emaciated, he meditates before a human skull or is in a state of ecstasy as he receives the stigmata. Besides churches and monasteries, there would have been many who sought to acquire some of these impressive works produced by El Greco’s studio, intended for private chapels and shrines.   

In an exquisite version, in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, St Francis is depicted half-body in profile, his head covered with a hood and raised towards the shining stream of light in the upper-left corner, contrasting with the dark background. His hands are spread in awe or surprise. The scene is described in I Fioretti di San Francesco, in which Brother Leo, one of the monks of the Order, witnesses the miracle experienced by the saint. The St Francis painting in the A. G. Leventis Foundation Collection is a depiction of this episode. It survives as a fragment of a larger painting in which the arms of the saint had particular expression and significance. The work maintains the general type and, probably, dimensions of the version in the Escorial (1585-1590), and the composition is reminiscent of other works by El Greco of repentant saints.    

In the case of this work, El Greco’s prototype for his subsequent reworkings is unknown. Yet there are reasons for assuming that such a model did exist, of which we have four variants of inferior quality. Three of these were published in 1937. The list of these variants serves to reinforce the hypothesis that there was an earlier work by El Greco that perhaps has not survived. The painting in the Leventis Collection belongs to this group, although because of its superb quality it stands out from the rest. Soehner considered it to be the prototype for the ‘Malaga type’, as he dubbed the variant from the southern Spanish town where the painting was recorded. He considered it to be a copy of a lost original, dating it to c. 1580-1585. In my view, the quality of the rendering of St Francis is more reminiscent of El Greco’s production from a slightly later date, closer to the Escorial St Francis; accordingly, I propose a dating of c. 1585-1590. Here we are presented with a densely painted composition, based on careful application of tiny crisscrossing brushstrokes that create a face with delicate, sensitive features. Some parts seem less well finished, such as the head and hair, rendered somewhat coarsely, with some bright brushstrokes on the black background, contrasting sharply with the subtle handling of the beard and moustache. The black pigment was applied rather crudely, both across the background and in the saint’s eyebrow, eyelid and part of the neck. The cowl is depicted more accurately, with good underlying drafting and some easy, rapid, supple brushstrokes that follow the folds of the garment. In other respects the work can be compared with the copy that once belonged to the Cassirer Collection (see note 6), although that version is clearly inferior.

Share this:
About the artist

He was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos on Crete when it was part of the Republic of Venice; he became known as El Greco following his move to Spain. Around 1567 he went to Venice to continue his studies, possibly under Titian, and from 1570 he was in Rome. In 1577 he settled in Toledo, where he had a prodigious and successful career. Seeped in the Post-Byzantine artistic tradition of Crete, his distinctive style, with his elongated figures, was influenced by Mannerism; in his work, colour was more important than form. Known primarily for his dramatic and visionary religious paintings, he also created exceptional portraits, and some landscape and mythological subjects, as well as practising sculpture and architecture. His only son, Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos, was also a painter.

© Copyright © 2019 A. G. Leventis Gallery  |  Terms of Use