Doña María de Aragón Altarpiece (1596-1600)
by EL GRECO

The Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Encarnacion (College of Our Lady of the Incarnation), also known as the Colegio de Doña María de Aragón, was an Augustinian seminary in Madrid for the training of priests. Construction of the church began in 1581 and El Greco - who was resident in Toledo and had relatively few contacts in Madrid - was fortunate to obtain the contract for the main altarpiece. The agreement between the painter and the Council of Castile was signed in December 1596 and required El Greco to deliver the altarpiece (including carpentry, sculptures and gilding) by Christmas 1599. The altarpiece was eventually completed in July 1600.

The Doña María de Aragón altarpiece was the most important commission El Greco received and he was paid just under 6000 ducats for it, a vast sum, and more than he earned for any other work. It was here that he first fully realised the traits of his late, 'mystical' style - elongated forms, flickering effects of light, colour combinations that verge on dissonance (copper-resinate green, rose-to-magenta, golden yellow and blue), and an emphasis on ecstatic gestures and expressions.

The altarpiece was dismantled in 1810, following the suppression by Joseph Bonaparte of the religious orders in Spain. No detailed description of it survives, but according to a document of 1814 it comprised seven paintings and six sculptures. There has been much debate in recent years over the altarpiece's original appearance, but there is considerable agreement that it comprised five paintings today in the Prado, The Resurrection, The Crucifixion, The Pentecost, The Baptism of Christ and The Annunciation, and a sixth, The Adoration of the Shepherds, in Bucharest. The seventh painting is presumed lost and it has been suggested that it may have been a Coronation of the Virgin.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 8 minutes):
Johann Sebastian Bach: St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 (excerpts)


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
The Annunciation
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 315 x 174 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

750*1390
True Color
187 Kb



The Annunciation (detail)
1596-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

1227*900
True Color
179 Kb



The Annunciation
1597-1600
Oil on canvas, 114 x 67 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

750*1294
True Color
199 Kb



The Annunciation (detail)
1597-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

1000*1090
True Color
197 Kb



The Annunciation (detail)
1597-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

1134*747
True Color
164 Kb



Adoration of the Shepherds
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 346 x 137 cm
Muzeul National de Arta, Bucharest

650*1637
True Color
196 Kb



Adoration of the Shepherds (detail)
1596-1600
Oil on canvas
Muzeul National de Arta, Bucharest

632*971
True Color
161 Kb



The Baptism
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 350 x 144 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

580*1457
True Color
221 Kb



The Crucifixion
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 312 x 169 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

800*1495
True Color
191 Kb



The Crucifixion (detail)
1596-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

500*1628
True Color
130 Kb



The Resurrection
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 275 x 127 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

700*1539
True Color
172 Kb



The Resurrection (detail)
1596-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

900*1232
True Color
180 Kb



The Resurrection (detail)
1596-1600
Oil on canvas
Museo del Prado, Madrid

896*1196
True Color
167 Kb



The Pentecost
1596-1600
Oil on canvas, 275 x 127 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

700*1492
True Color
153 Kb




Summary of paintings by El Greco
Crete: before 1567 | Venice: 1567-70 | Rome: 1570-75
Spain
1576-80 (page 1) (page 2) | 1581-85 | 1586-90 | 1591-95 | 1596-1600
Santo Domingo: 1577-79 | Count Orgaz: 1586-88 | Colegio: 1596-1600
Capilla San José: 1597-99 | Illescas: 1603-05 | Apostolado: 1610-14
c. 1600 | 1601-05 | 1606-10 | c. 1610 | after 1610
Oballe Chapel: 1608-13 | Hospital Tavera: 1608-14 | Drawings | Sculptures
Subjects
| Apostles | Saints | Christ | Portraits |