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El Greco

When Saints burst into flames


Agony in the Garden 

Instead of making people pray, you make them admire. Beauty inserts itself as an obstacle between our souls and God. Grand Inquisitor Cardinal Guevara, to El Greco

Born in 1541 in Fódele (although the archives and recent research all say in Heráklion), Doménikos Theotokópoulos spent all his early life on Crete, but the details of his youth are obscure. It is known that his first training was as an icon painter, perhaps studying alongside Micháil Damáskinos, his contemporary. Only two paintings by a young Theotokópoulos survive on Crete, in Heráklion’s Historical Museum, although a surviving Cretan document of 1566 refers to him as ‘master painter’.

Soon after this date, however, he was in Titian’s workshop in Venice, although the elongated, linear, mystical style of another Venetian, Tintoretto, proved a greater influence. He studied the works of Correggio and Parmigianino in Parma on his way to Rome in 1570, where he discovered the work of Michelangelo and the Central Italian Mannerists (Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino) and their startling colours, unrealistic perspectives and exaggerated, often tortured poses.

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Sidelights and Myths

Text © Dana Facaros

Images by El Greco