It can be safely assured that El Greco is the most important artist in the history of Toledo. The capital of Castilla-La Mancha knows this and proclaims it proudly. It not only makes known the works of the painter that are kept here, but also many others that he painted in his workshop in Toledo and that today are exhibited in some of the best museums in the world.
El Greco before arriving in Toledo
Its name already indicates the origin of El Greco. He was Greek and his real name was Domenikos Theotocopoulos. Specific, He was born in 1541 in Crete, one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean. This is a territory that at that time was under the control of the commercial and maritime empire of Venice.
This data is important. To his first steps as a painter on his native island, focusing on the icons of the local Orthodox religion, it must be added that he soon traveled to the Italian city. In Venice he would perfect his art and meet great masters like Titian or Tintoretto.
He would also travel to other places in Italy, such as Rome, to continue training. And with all that baggage, traveled in 1577 to Spain, to Toledoa city where he would settle until his death in 1614.
The first works in Toledo
Many historians think that El Greco traveled to Spain to find work in the great work of San Lorenzo del Escorial. And that is why he settled in Toledo, then capital of the empire ruled by Philip II.
However, the truth is that when the king commissioned a canvas for the Escorial monastery, The martyrdom of Saint Mauricethe monarch did not like it and discarded it. It was something that greatly displeased the painter, but by then he had already been in Toledo for 10 years and he did not lack work.
In fact, Shortly after arriving, he had already signed one of the jewels of the city: the altarpiece of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. A work that he developed between 1577 and 1579 and in which the influence of another of the Italian painters that he admired is manifested, neither more nor less than Michelangelo.
Other works by El Greco in Toledo
The historic center of Toledo still keeps some of the masterpieces that the artist made. It is true that others hang in museums such as El Prado or the Metropolitan in New York, but the city has managed to preserve this exquisite and unique pictorial heritage.
A tour of these jewels could well begin on the outskirts, in what is known as Hospital de Tavera, where there are various canvases by the artist. And especially, we must mention one in which he portrayed one of his great patrons, Cardinal Tavera.
And once in the streets of Toledo, you have to go to the cathedral, especially its sacristy. There is the plunder, one of his masterpieces. This painting is a perfect prelude to later visit the Museo del Greco, with different paintings that he painted for many other churches in the city.
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz
Everything seen would already place El Greco’s work as one of the most interesting of all time. But we still have to discover the great treasure of Toledo. For it, you have to go to the church of Santo Tomé.
It is in this church where we can admire the enormous painting The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. It is a jewel in the history of art that not only signed the painter, but also proud, he was able to take a self-portrait with his son.
Toledo seen by El Greco
In the aforementioned Museo del Greco, recently reopened, there is a painting that shows us a View of Toledo painted by the artist. In fact, he painted his adopted city three times. And with this she has made her world famous, since on another occasion she appears in a spectacular painting that keeps the MET in New York.
Meanwhile, a third view of the city serves as the background for one of his few paintings on a mythological subject. Your title is Laocoön’s Punishment and it can also be seen in the United States, at the National Gallery in Washington. This is one more example that the names of El Greco and Toledo go together and are known throughout the planet.