artist / participant
The exhibition opens with the earliest works by El Greco to enter the Prado and which came from the Spanish royal collection. Together they conform a gallery of portraits and include paintings of the stature of Gentleman with his Hand on his Breast. For much of the 19th century these paintings gained El Greco fame as the portraitist who best expressed the Spanish aristocratic spirit. Together with these portraits visitors will see The Trinity, painted as part of the altarpiece for the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo. It is one of the artist’s great masterpieces and the first religious painting by El Greco to enter the Prado.
The way in which the collection of El Greco’s work was gradually assembled in the Prado directly influenced the artist’s critical fortunes. Until 1872 he was primarily viewed as a portraitist due to the predominance of this genre within his oeuvre in the Museum, but the arrival in 1872 of fifteen paintings from the Museo del la Trinidad enabled El Greco to be increasingly appreciated for his religious compositions. Outstanding among these is The Annunciation from the “Altarpiece of Doña María de Aragón”, the only commission that the artist secured in Madrid and the focus of the second room in the exhibition.
The fourth room is devoted to the various bequests and donations received by the Prado between 1915 and 1962. These added other major works by El Greco, including Saint Sebastian (donated by the Marchioness of Casa Riera in 1959) and the two unique sculptures of Epimetheus and Pandora (donated by the widow of the Count of las Infantas in 1962). Such donations were exceptionally generous given that the artist’s work was fully appreciated by that period. At the time of the Prado’s foundation in 1819 El Greco was considered a minor member of the Italian school but in the 20th century his unique genius was definitively recognised.
The fifth and final room in the exhibition brings together works purchased by the Museum or by the Spanish State. These purchases have resulted in the addition of further masterpieces, such as The Adoration of the Shepherds, which El Greco painted for his own funerary chapel. In addition, they have functioned to complete gaps or fill out under-represented areas in the Prado’s holdings of his work, including Apostles series, secular paintings such as the magnificent Fábula, and the Italian period. The Museum’s most recent acquisition of a work by the artist, The Flight into Egypt, acquired in 2002, dates from the Italian period.
El Greco in the Prado