Tuesday, December 13, 2011

El Greco: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio)

Public Domain Image: The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio), oil on canvas painting (1577-1579) by Spanish artist El Greco, 173 cm (68.1 in) x 285 cm (112.2 in), located at Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, Spain.

The oil painting titled ‘The Disrobing of Christ (El Expolio)’ was created between 1577 and 1579 by the Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco (1541-1614) for the High Altar of the Sacristy of the Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo, Spain, where it is located now.

The painting features Jesus Christ in a bright red robe gazing at the Heaven amidst a violent crowd of people who are about to crucify him. A man points an accusing finger at Christ, while two others are arguing, and some others are making disturbing gestures and creating chaos all around. While Christ, the dominating central figure is in a serene composure, a person wearing a green dress holds a rope tied to Christ’s right hand, while trying to disrobe him for his crucifixion. Another man in yellow and white dress drills a hole on the cross for driving a nail through one of Christ's hands.

Apart from the usual crucifixion scene figures, El Greco also painted The Three Marys (Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James, often considered the same woman as the disciple Salome), who are featured in distress and contemplating on the unfolding unbearable scene of crucifixion of Jesus.

While The Disrobing of Christ is considered one of El Greco’s most famous works, some art writers and critics consider it his masterpiece. The painting was highly acclaimed and over 17 versions of it are known to exist, some in reduced sizes and other versions painted by El Greco himself.

However, the Cathedral authorities did not appreciate the painting very much, mainly because of the depiction of The Three Marys in the painting and for painting the heads of other people above the head of Jesus. Reportedly they refused El Greco payment for his work and the artist had to go to arbitration after which he was awarded part payment of his claim.

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