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

The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes

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 right-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.

Originally located on the side altar opposite Saint Martin and the Beggar, this painting shows the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus enthroned in the heavens, surrounded by angels and seraphim. The postures of the Virgin and Child are similar to those in The Holy family with Saint Mary Magdalen in Cleveland. Below two virgin martyrs are shown in adoration of the heavenly group: St Martina with the Lion and St Agnes with the lamb. Although the first is traditionally identified as St Martina (her inclusion could be a reference to the name of the founder, Martín Ramírez), there are several reasons for suggesting that El Greco actually represented St Thecla who features in the legend of St Martin, who received frequent visits in his room from the Virgin Mary accompanied by Sts Agnes and Thecla. (The lion and palm branch are the standard attributes of both St Martina and St Thecla.)