Museo del Prado, Madrid

Museo Nacional del Prado | Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 23
28014 Madrid

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The decoration of the chapel founded by Isabel de Oballe in the Church of San Vicente Mártir in Toledo was the last major scheme realised entirely by El Greco (1541 - 1614). It was originally commissioned from the Genoese artist Alessandro Semini, who agreed to deliver an altarpiece with a painting of the Immaculate Conception and to paint various figures in fresco on the walls. After Semini is death, the City Council of Toledo commissioned El Greco in late 1607 to undertake the decoration. He changed the programme, proposing that all the paintings should be in oil and that on the ceiling there should be "a story of the visitation of Saint Elizabeth as this is the name of the foundress". The scheme thus comprised the altar painting of the Immaculate Virgin on the main wall, two paintings of Saint Peter and Saint Ildefonso on the side walls, and the Visitation on the ceiling.

El Greco painted all the works himself without workshop assistance, as he had agreed, but it seems that he only delivered the painting of the Immaculate Conception, in 1613, possibly due to financial disagreements. The paintings of Saint Peter and Saint Ildefonso that were actually installed in the chapel were copies made by his workshop. The originals, which remained in the possession of El Greco's son, found their way, possibly throught Velázquez, into the Royal Palace in Madrid and from there to the Escorial. The Visitation, now in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in Washington DC, and the only work not included in this exhibition, was reduced in size and passed to the convent of Santa Clara in Daimiel at an unknown date.


El Greco and the Oballe Chapel