Altarpieces in the Capilla de San José, Toledo (1597-99)
by EL GRECO

On 9 November 1597, El Greco signed a contract to execute a series of paintings for the newly built Capilla de San José (Chapel of Saint Joseph), Toledo. The Chapel was dedicated to Saint Joseph, Saint Teresa's favourite Saint - 'the Father of my Soul' - for it was the original intention of the founder, Martin Ramírez (d. 1595) to build a chapel for her (d. 1582). The contract specified that El Greco was to paint the altarpieces himself and design and gild the frames. The centrepiece of the decorative scheme was to be a painting of Saint Joseph and the Infant Christ with The Coronation of the Virgin above it. These two paintings, set in an altarpiece in a Palladian style designed by El Greco, though its surroundings were altered by Baroque additions around 1665, are still in situ; recent cleaning has revealed their masterly quality. In addition, El Greco was commissioned to paint two side altarpieces. Saint Martin and the Beggar hung on the left-hand side of the main altar, while The Virgin and Child with Saints Martina and Agnes was placed directly opposite, on the right-hand side of the altar, where they remained until they were sold in 1906 to the American collector Peter A. B. Widener. Two sculptures, of David and Solomon, situated on either side of the main altar, were possibly also designed by El Greco.

In the contract the date of August 1598 was set for completion, however, the decoration was completed only at the end of 1599.

The commission for the Capilla de San Jose was one of the most important undertaken by El Greco since Santo Domingo el Antiguo in 1577-79. Conceived on a much smaller scale than the Santo Domingo commission, it demonstrates his ability to execute pictorial schemes suited to his patrons' taste and religious aspirations. The chapel's visual harmony and complex religious iconography served as a prototype for later commissions such as those for the church of the Hospital de la Caridad at Illescas in 1603-05 and the Oballe Chapel in the parish church of San Vicente in 1607.

Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
Altarpiece
1597-99
-
Capilla de San José, Toledo

820*1136
True Color
186 Kb



St Joseph and the Christ Child
1597-99
Oil on canvas, 289 x 147 cm
Capilla de San José, Toledo

387*800
True Color
73 Kb



St Joseph and the Christ Child
c. 1600
Oil on canvas, 109 x 56 cm
Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

650*1329
True Color
142 Kb



St Martin and the Beggar
1597-99
Oil on canvas, 193 x 103 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

800*1489
True Color
185 Kb



St. Martin and the Beggar
c. 1604
Oil on canvas, 104 x 60 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

596*1050
True Color
124 Kb



The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes
1597-99
Oil on canvas, 193 x 103 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

750*1350
True Color
177 Kb



The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes (detail)
1597-99
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington

900*1228
True Color
151 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 |