(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
The Agony in the Gardenc. 1590
Oil on canvas, 104 x 117 cm
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio
There are many versions of The Agony in the Garden painted by El Greco and his workshop, it was one of his most successful inventions. He painted the subject both as a horizontal and as a vertical composition. The version in the Ohio museum is probably the prototype, or at least the best autograph version of the horizontal type.
The Agony in the Garden testifies to an astonishing development of the artist. The Italian influences recede to the same degree as El Greco frees himself from his obligation to nature. The figures lose their sense of substance, while their expressiveness is amplified by the unreal shapes assumed by the landscape. Thus Christ is literally heightened by the rock behind him, while the disciples are seen in a sheltering cave as a symbol of sleep. The figures are absolved from logical relationships of scale. The falling diagonal which leads from an angel, through Christ, to the soldiers on the right-hand edge of the painting is a visual statement of the inevitability of Christ's fate. Such departures from the natural model, also evident in the visionary apparition of the moon, were one of the major reasons for the revival of interest in El Greco's work around 1900.