(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)
St Francis's Vision of the Flaming Torch1600-05
Oil on canvas, 203 x 148 cm
Hospital de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Cádiz
In the early 160s El Greco had established himself as the painter 'par excellence' of Franciscan mystical imagery in Spain. His workshop was producing countless copies after his compositions of St Francis for a demanding market. This painting in Cádiz was probably the latest addition to his Franciscan repertoire, and certainly one of the most inventive. The subject of the picture is taken from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis, a popular medieval account of St Francis's life.
Using a palette of browns, greys and blacks, El Greco sets the scene against a rock in total obscurity. Particularly noteworthy in the picture the way in which El Greco contrasts the front and back views of the two Franciscan brothers, St Francis and his faithful companion, Brother Leo. El Greco has painted a piece of paper with his signature 'stuck' to the canvas with a red was seal. Casting a shadow on the ground, it functions as a trompe l'oeil simulation of a 'real' business card.