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

St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child

before 1567
Tempera and gold on canvas attached to panel, 41,6 x 33 cm
Benaki Museum, Athens

Together with the icon of The Dormition at Syros, this is one of El Greco's earliest works, painted while he was a master in Crete. It suffered serious losses but much of the paint surface remains intact and legible. It is signed in the area of the stool under the easel. It shows St Luke, traditionally both a physician and a painter, in the act of painting the icon of The Virgin Hodigitria, patron and protector of Constantinople.

El Greco kept strictly to the Byzantine canon in the representation of the icon on the easel, but he allowed himself greater freedom in the rest of the depiction. This icon is a transitional work that demonstrates how the artist was seeking to graft Renaissance elements (taken from Italian prints) on to Byzantine compositions.




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