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

The Holy Family

1586-88
Oil on canvas, 178 x 105 cm
Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

It was only after El Greco moved to Spain that he treated the theme of the Madonna and Child in both half-length and full-length format, however, he invariably included St Joseph, in keeping with the new prominence the saint was given in Counter-Reformation theology. This painting from the Santa Leocadia in Toledo (presently on loan to the Museo de Santa Cruz) is El Greco's earliest version of the full-length depictions of the Holy Family. Two inferior paintings derive from it, a smaller version in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and another in the Prado, Madrid. The primary difference between the Santa Leocadia version and the others is the substitution in those works of a conventional image of St Joseph for the balding figure that appears in this one. This figure is probably a portrait of the donor. It was painted out at one point and was only revealed by cleaning in 1981. Noteworthy is the figure of St John the Baptist: he turns towards the viewer and makes a gesture urging silence so that the child will not be awakened.




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