El Greco arrived in the city of Toledo in 1583, after being expelled from the court of King Philip II for lack of artistic decorum. Instead, he soon felt welcome in the Castilian city of La Mancha and would reside there until his death in 1614. And during all those years in Toledo he produced some of his masterpieces, such as El Expolio that he did for the Cathedral or the Burial of the Count Orgaz, which is also still on display today in the toledana church of Santo Tomé.
View of Toledo by El Greco
However, many other works that he did in this city are currently scattered throughout the great museums of the world. That is the case of this phantasmagorical Vista de Toledo that the painter painted around the year 1600 and which is currently one of the great jewels of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
This is not the only time that the artist made a panorama of his adoptive city. There is a later plan that is still preserved in the Museo de El Greco in Toledo itself. And it even appears as part of other of his paintings, as in his magnificent work of Laocoön and his sons, you can see that he has painted the city as the background of the mythological scene.
In fact, for a time many historians thought that this View of Toledo was actually a fragment of another painting with a leading scene. However thesize of the canvas (121 x 109 cm) suggests that El Greco painted the panorama on purpose, which would make him one of the pioneers of landscape painting in Spain.
However, we are facing a landscape that is not realistic. He has been enlarging or shrinking the buildings at will, when he has not moved them and even invented or is in an impossible perspective, like the bell tower of the Cathedral.
That's about the identification of the elements, but on the other hand there is the tone, which we could almost describe as romantic but more than 200 years before that artistic style emerged. In fact, the most striking thing about the fabric is its unreal atmosphere based on basically combining two tones: fluorescent green and metallic blue.
With this he paints the city crowned with the Alcázar on the hill. And in the upper part a stormy sky, which gives the whole landscape an unreal and almost ghostly air.
That is, El Greco has not painted Toledo, he has painted his Toledo, the city he loved.