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

Mount Sinai

Oil and tempera on panel, 41 x 47,5 cm
Historical Museum of Crete, Iraklion

The painting was probably made for the antiquarian Fulvio Orsini, librarian to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, in whose palace the artist lived from 1570 to 1572. It shows the peaks of Mount Sinai, a place sacred to Judaism and Christianity, of special significance for Eastern Orthodoxy, and revered by Muslims. At the centre is Mount Horeb, where Moses received the tablets of the Ten Commandments from God. On the left is Mount Epistene. The peak on the right is St Catherine's Mount, where the early Christian Martyr Catherine had been buried. The small citadel at the foot of Mount Horeb is the monastery that to this day bears her name.

The St Catherine's Monastery is venerated as the spiritual home of Byzantine Orthodoxy and it was a great centre of pilgrimage. In the painting, on the left are three Western pilgrims, while on the right is a group of Eastern pilgrims with camels.

The view of the holy site is based on engravings of Mount Sinai which could be found in travel books. El Greco painted a similar view on the reverse of the Modena Triptych.

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