Adoration of the name of Jesus by El Greco

Adoration of the name of Jesus by El Greco
Adoration of the name of Jesus by El Greco

This oil painting by El Greco is inside the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial and the artist painted it in 1579.

We see a canvas that is clearly divided into two planes. On one side would be the upper area occupied by a choir of angels suspended above the clouds. That is the heavenly plane. While below is the most earthly. An area of ​​the frame that in turn is also divided into two parts, but now on the right and left. On the left are what we can call good men, while on the right you see discover a kind of monster that opening its jaws is swallowing people, therefore it becomes a representation of hell.


Adoration of the name of Jesus by El Greco

So far everything is more or less clear from a first glance at the work, but the magic of El Greco manifests itself precisely in the area where the planes merge upper and lower. An area of ​​the painting where the division is not so clear, since the color tones merge and a great game of curved lines is created with which it generates arches, horizons and perspectives. Truly dreamlike forms. In fact, the work in the 19th century was not known as the Adoration of the name of Jesus, but as the Dream of Felipe II.

And it was the powerful Spanish monarch who commissioned this work. The king himself is identifiable in theclose-up, dressed in black and kneeling. Although he is not the only recognizable character. Also recognized would be the Pope Pius X, the Venetian Doge Mocenigo or the Admiral John of Austria, all of them obviously located in the left zone of the good men.

Why bring all those characters together in a crazy scene like this? Well, because the royal commission was probably to create an allegorical image of what the victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 over the Turks meant, in which Spain fought with Venice and where Admiral John of Austria triumphed, who by the way had died in 1578.

However, what could have been a more or less clear allegory, in El Greco's mind it became a portentous and also very complex painting. So much so that today his title has nothing to do with it. Actually, its current name refers to the inscription IHS (Jesus) on a golden sky at the top. That would be Glory, paradise. While in an intermediate and indefinite point there would be purgatory, and we have already talked about hell.

In other words, in terms of his messages, in works like this one, or in Pentecost or in The Baptism of Christ, El Greco always appears to us as a complex painter. A complexity to which is added his particular pictorial style with the elongated proportions of his figures and the special color of his palette. In other words, a unique artist.

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