(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

The Madonna of Charity

Oil on canvas, 155 x 123 cm
Hospital de la Caridad, Illescas

On 18 June 1603 El Greco signed a contract to make and decorate an altarpiece for a miraculous image of the Virgin of Charity belonging to the Hospital de la Caridad in the small town of Illescas halfway between Toledo and Madrid. According to the contract the main altarpiece and the decoration of the vault were to contain four canvases: The Madonna of Charity, The Coronation of the Virgin, The Annunciation and The Nativity. This project was executed in collaboration with the artist's son, Jorge Manual Theotokopoulos. Under a separate contract a further painting, St Ildefonso was made.

All the portraits The Madonna of Charity are of men of Toledo of El Greco's time. The ruffs had grown to rather exaggerated proportions in the twenty years from the time of the Burial of the Count of Orgaz, and their introduction into the painting was censured by the Hospital authorities. At some time they were painted over, but have been recently restored. El Greco's son appears on the extreme right, at about the same age as in the portrait in Seville.

Presently the painting is located in a side altar balancing the painting of St Ildefonso.