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

Christ Healing the Blind

Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm
Galleria Nazionale, Parma

Possibly the sequel to the Christ driving the Traders from the Temple (Matthew, XXI, 14: 'And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them'). Both subjects were treated by El Greco more than once in Italy. This is the smallest known painting on canvas by El Greco. The painting has been cut and the group on the right is incomplete. No large-scale works are known from his Italian period, and most are quite small. He does not appear to have received any important commissions before he moved to Spain.

Three versions of this subject are known, all basically the same in composition, but differing in treatment. The earliest, an unsigned panel in Dresden, is looser in composition, smaller in conception, and introduces genre motifs of a dog, sack and pitcher in the foreground, eliminated in subsequent versions. The present painting, probably also painted in Venice, is more easily composed. The third and largest painting, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (possibly identical with the one in a Madrid collection at the time of Cossio's pioneer work on El Greco), with its comparative largeness of conception, belongs to his Roman period, after 1570. El Greco did not again take up the subject in Spain.

The inspiration is from Venice. The dramatic use of recession behind the figures in the foreground is Tintoretto's invention. El Greco is still borrowing certain motifs, but the composition would seem to be original. The painting was among the Farnese possessions in the seventeenth century, and was probably brought to Rome by the artist, unless it was painted soon after his arrival in 1570. The figure on the extreme left, looking out towards the spectator, is certainly the young El Greco. He appears, however, nearer twenty than thirty years old.