Altarpieces for the Hospital Tavera, Toledo (1608-14)
by EL GRECO

In 1608 El Greco contracted to paint three altarpieces for the church of the Hospital Tavera (also called Hospital de San Juan Bautista or Hospital de Afuera). Located just outside the walls of Toledo, the hospital was founded in 1541 by Cardinal Juan Tavera (1472-1545), who is buried in the church. Of this project for the altarpieces, three pictures survive: an Annunciation (Colección Santander Central Hispano, Madrid, the upper portion showing a choir of angels has been cut and is in the National Gallery, Athens), a Baptism (installed on a side altar in the church), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

This project was El Greco's last large-scale undertaking, and he did not live to complete it: in the 1614 inventory we find its components described as 'the paintings destined for the hospital begun' followed by 'the wood frames, not sculpted, for the lateral altarpieces', and 'the altarpiece for the high altar without its columns, tympana and sculptures'. El Greco's son Jorge Manuel continued to work on the altarpieces and by 1621 the frames of the lateral ones had been prepared for gilding and that for the high altarpiece had been finished. Jorge had completed The Baptism, which was for the high altar, but not the paintings for the lateral altars, which remained only sketched in. Eventually, Jorge Manuel brought The Annunciation to completion, thereby spoiling what his father had begun, just as he had spoiled the principal figures of The Baptism. Fortunately, The Opening of the Fifth Seal remained as El Greco had left it.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Marche en Rondeau


Preview Picture Data File Info Comment
The Baptism of Christ
1608-28
Oil on canvas, 330 x 211 cm
Hospital Tavera, Toledo

750*1353
True Color
197 Kb



The Baptism of Christ (detail)
1608-28
Oil on canvas, detail size 100 x 82 cm
Hospital Tavera, Toledo

920*1117
True Color
189 Kb



Annunciation
1608-14
Oil on canvas, 291 x 205 cm
Colección Santander Central Hispano, Madrid

555*800
True Color
92 Kb



Angelic Concert
c. 1610
Oil on canvas, 115 x 217 cm
National Gallery, Athens

1100*590
True Color
169 Kb



The Opening of the Fifth Seal (The Vision of St John)
1608-14
Oil on canvas, 222,3 x 193 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1100*1223
True Color
198 Kb



The Opening of the Fifth Seal (detail)
1608-14
Oil on canvas, detail size 112 x 92 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

900*1086
True Color
140 Kb



The Opening of the Fifth Seal (detail)
1608-14
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1082*1050
True Color
173 Kb



The Opening of the Fifth Seal (detail)
1608-14
Oil on canvas,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

600*1475
True Color
144 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 |