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

The Trinity

Oil on canvas, 300 x 179 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Painted for the attic of the High Altarpiece of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, Toledo, to go above the Assumption. Probably painted 1577-78, following the Assumption. It was El Greco's first commission upon his arrival in Toleedo in 1577. It gained great fame in Toledo, which was artistically rather archaic and provincial, and established a successful career for El Greco in the town.

Here the reference is to Rome, rather than to Venice, and specifically to Michelangelo, developing the motif of the Pietà. The general scheme of the composition of the Trinity, however, refers to Dürer's engraving of the same subject. The composition continues that of the Assumption below, slowing down the upward movement which finally comes to rest in the supported shoulders of Christ. Form is more in evidence here than in the Assumption, especially in the Michelangelesque motif of the naked Christ (for which the artist probably drew inspiration from Michelangelo's Pietà for Vittoria Colonna), and it is only later that he treats his figures with the same freedom as draperies. Here the suggestion of weight in the supported Dead Christ is appropriate. The stress on the dead body of Christ, together with the clamorous mannerist colors and the rather loose composition of the figures, produces a feverish pathos.

El Greco was not to repeat this subject.