About this artwork
This painting was the central element of the altarpiece that was El Greco’s ﬁrst major Spanish commission and ﬁrst large public work. After living in Venice and Rome, where he absorbed the late Mannerist style, the Greek-born artist settled in the Spanish city of Toledo in 1577 to work on the high altar of the convent church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The church of this ancient Cistercian convent was being rebuilt as the funerary chapel of a pious widow, Doña Maria de Silva. In El Greco’s grand de-sign, the Assumption was surmounted by a representation of the Trinity and was ﬂanked by two side altars decorated with paintings of the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Resurrection. The visionary imagery of the Assumption and the Trinity aptly expressed the patron’s hope of salvation. Here the Virgin ﬂoats upward, supported on the crescent moon that is symbolic of her purity, while the boldly modeled heads of the crowd of apostles gathered around her empty tomb express amazement and concern. The vigor of El Greco’s broad brushstrokes proclaims the conﬁdent achievement of this early work, as does this artist’s large signature in Greek, painted as though afﬁxed to the surface of the picture at the lower right.
- Domenico Theotokópoulos, called El Greco
- The Assumption of the Virgin
- Oil on canvas
- Inscribed on paper at lower right in Greek: (Domenikos Theotokopoulos, Cretan, displayed this in 1577)
- 403.2 × 211.8 cm (158 3/4 × 83 3/4 in.)
- Gift of Nancy Atwood Sprague in memory of Albert Arnold Sprague