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

St Francis Meditating

c. 1595
Oil on canvas, 147,3 x 105,4 cm
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco

St Francis of Assisi was the most popular saint in the Counter-Reformation period. Favoured subjects represented in painting were his stigmatisation, his ecstasy and his meditation. El Greco treated all three, and ten different compositions by the artist can be differentiated, some half-length, some full-length, some showing the saint alone, others with a companion.

In this painting St Francis meditates not so much on mortality (signified by the skull) as on the sacrifice of Christ. In accordance with devotional practice, Francis has prepared his meditation by first reading from the Bible, shown lying on the ledge with a piece of paper marking the place.

The painting is signed on a piece of paper attached with a seal to the rock lower right.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.