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


Tempera on panel, 24 x 18 cm
Galleria Estense, Modena

Probably soon after his arrival in Venice El Greco painted the Modena Triptych. Here he adapts Renaissance principles of representation to a small-scale triptych of a post-Byzantine design common in the Venetian empire. As the wings of the triptych are opened in succession, the sequence of images reveals the state of Man before the Fall to his restoration to a state of Grace through Christ. The scene of The Annunciation is the left panel on the back of the triptych.

The Modena Triptych strikingly illustrates El Greco's transition from post-Byzantine icon painter to European artist of the Latin variety. The portable altarpiece, whose unknown patron perhaps stemmed from a Creto-Venetian family, in its open state shows a total of six scenes: on the front, the central panel bears a rare depiction of the Coronation of the Christian Knight, and on the wings we find the Adoration of the Shepherds on the left and the Baptism of Christ on the right. On the reverse, a View of Mount Sinai with its famous convent of St Catherine is flanked by an Annunciation and an Admonition of Adam and Eve by God the Father. This type of object with its gilded frame elements was common in Cretan workshops of the 16th century, as is its use of wood as a painting support.