El Greco (“The Greek”), also known as Domenicos Theotocopulos, was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. El Greco was born in Crete in 1541, which was then a part of the Republic of Venice, and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He had trained and become a master within that tradition and an icon painter. Among his great artworks, I would like to draw attention to “Pietà (The Lamentation of Christ)”, an oil painting. El Greco had painted this masterpiece about c.1565-70 in Italy, during the Cretan period.
El Greco, at the age of 26, like other Greek artists had travelled to Venice and came under the influence of Titian and Tintoretto. During his stay in Italy, he widened his style with aspects of Mannerism and Venetian Renaissance. He then went down to Rome (about 1570) where he opened a workshop. Later in 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. In order to differentiate himself from his contemporaries, El Greco invented new and unusual interpretations of religious subject matters. The artist’s serious, lifelong attraction to religious subjects, lead him to the creation of his trademark elongated figures and vibrant atmospheric lights (Jordan 16).
Michelangelo and Raphael were dead when El Greco arrived in Rome, but their example continued to be dominant and left little room for modernization. Although the legacies of these great masters were irresistible, El Greco was determined to make his own mark in Rome. Even though El Greco had dismissed Michelangelo, where he offered to Pope Pius V to paint over the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, he couldn’t avoid Michelangelo’s influences in his paintings. His works were outstanding from his contemporaries due to their dramatic and expressionistic style.
The Lamentation of Christ is a very common topic in the Christian art from the High Middle Ages to the Baroque period. It is a scene which is shown after Jesus was crucified, where his body has been removed from the cross and his friends and family mourn over his body. Many artists have focused this scene by just painting four people: the body of Christ, His mother, Saint Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea.
El Greco’s Lamentation of Christ is “a translation in paint of Michelangelo's late sculptured group of the Pietà in Florence Cathedral, at the time in Rome. The pattern and the feeling are the same. The figures of the Dead Christ, His Mother, Saint Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea make one compact group. Michelangelo achieved this by his new treatment of form; El Greco by paint, by employing broader, more continuous passages of color. The more vivid colors of Rome combine with the richer palette of Venice to convey the intensity of expression demanded by the subject. The horizontal composition of Venice, more suited to a narrative type of subject than to the single image, is given up and is only very rarely found appropriate in Spain. Michelangelo's Pietà group was not the...