Apostolados: the Series of Christ and the Apostles (1610-14)
by EL GRECO

El Greco painted several series in which Christ and the Apostles appear as separate images (Apostolados). The artist accepted the assistance of collaborators in some of these he painted in the final years of his life, but it is no less certain that he preserved until the very end that absolute mastery over his art so conspicuous in the superb series in the Museo de El Greco in Toledo. Other (incomplete) series are in the Toledo Cathedral, in Oviedo and in the Prado.

The group of thirteen pictures in the Museo de El Greco was conceived as a whole, with Christ looking directly at the viewer, six of the Apostles turning to the right and six to the left. The expressive, fragmentary brushwork has led some to suppose that the series was left unfinished at El Greco's death.

Literally, the apostles (from the Greek apostolos, envoy, messenger) are the twelve disciples of Christ whom he sent out to evangelise the nations. The name was also given at a later date to the small number of saints who continued the task of evangelisation begun by the first "apostles", and who are also considered as emissaries of Christ. Following St Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, come, among many others, St Martin, the apostle of the Gauls; St Boniface, apostle of Frisia and Germany; and SS. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. The original twelve formed a group which served to witness that the Jesus they knew was indeed the Messiah.

In the lists given in the New Testament, the earliest disciples - Peter (Simon Peter), Andrew, James the Greater (or Great) and John - are always named first. A second group of four follows: Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas. Finally appear James the Less, Jude (or Thaddaeus), Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot. Peter always occupies the first place and Judas the last; the latter was replaced by Matthias after the betrayal. However, in all of El Greco's Apostolados, Apostle Paul is chosen to replace Judas. Although not one of the original twelve whom Christ chose to be his closest followers, Paul became the 'Apostle of the Gentiles' following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.

Popular piety had all the apostles die for the true faith and their legends include a number of different methods of martyrdom. Like Christ, five were crucified: Peter and Philip upside down and Andrew on a cross saltire.

View the series of the apostles in a slide show.



Preview Picture Data Info
Apostle St Peter
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Andrew
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St James the Greater
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St John the Evangelist
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Philip
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Bartholomew
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Matthew
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Thomas
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St James the Less
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Thaddeus (Jude)
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Simon
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Apostle St Paul
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 97 x 77 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo


Christ as Saviour
1610-14
Oil on canvas, 99 x 79 cm
Museo de El Greco, Toledo



Summary of paintings by El Greco
Crete: before 1567 | Venice: 1567-70 | Rome: 1570-75
Spain
1576-80 (page 1) (page 2) | 1581-85 | 1586-90 | 1591-95 | 1596-1600
Santo Domingo: 1577-79 | Count Orgaz: 1586-88 | Colegio: 1596-1600
Capilla San José: 1597-99 | Illescas: 1603-05 | Apostolado: 1610-14
c. 1600 | 1601-05 | 1606-10 | c. 1610 | after 1610
Oballe Chapel: 1608-13 | Hospital Tavera: 1608-14 | Drawings | Sculptures
Subjects
| Apostles | Saints | Christ | Portraits |



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