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

St Martin and the Beggar

Oil on canvas, 193 x 103 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

This painting was made for the Capilla de San José (Chapel of Saint Joseph) in Toledo, originally it was placed on the left-hand side of the high altar. The paintings for the high altar (still in place) were the Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, and above, the Coronation of the Virgin; and, for the side altars, the Saint Martin and the Beggar and the Virgin and Child with Saints were placed.

Clad in gold damascened armour with a ruff typical of fashionable Toledan dress in El Greco's day, St Martin is shown astride a white horse as he prepares to cut his bright green cloak in half in order to share it with the beggar who stands on the left. Below, a distant and freely painted view of Toledo shows the Alcántara bridge and the river Tagus. The gleaming whiteness of the horse and the shining gold-damascene work on Martin's armour contrast with the darkening sky behind.

The painting is from the Widener Collection. There is a nearly identical smaller version of the subject also in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from the Mellon Collection.