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

Apostle St Andrew

c. 1610
Oil on canvas, 70 x 53,5 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

It is sometimes held that this small painting is not the work of El Greco himself. A great many pictures representing apostles were produced in El Greco's workshop, all faithfully executed in traditional style, and it is certain that no small number of them were painted by his pupils. However, the quality of this small size painting makes it probable that it was made by the painter himself.

The painting depicts the Apostle St Andrew who converted the 'Scythians'; he was the brother of Peter and because he had been a follower of St John the Baptist he was known in the Greek-Christian tradition as Protocleitos (the first of those called). Andrew was the apostle of Byzantium and the gentle affection with which El Greco painted the likeness of the wise old man may be traced back to his childhood memories of Crete. He follows the traditional iconographical way of indicating inevitable martyrdom by depicting St Andrew with the upright of the cross over his shoulder, but the heavy wooden upright is a symbol and not an organic part of the composition. The essence of the picture is the majestic figure of the old apostle in his voluminous cloak; it is a study of a patient and wise teacher. El Greco very skilfully represents the shining silver hair and beard, and reveals exceptional mastery of his art in the painting of the face, especially the eyes, and in the harmony he creates by the use of blue-green-yellow hues in the cloak. For all these reasons this picture must be classed among the finest of El Greco's smaller works.

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