The painting is a fragment from a large altarpiece commissioned for the church of the hospital of Saint John the Baptist in Toledo. It depicts a passage in the Bible, Revelation (6:9-11) describing the opening of the Fifth Seal at the end of time, and the distribution of white robes to "those who had been slain for the work of God and for the witness they had borne." The missing upper part may have shown the Sacrificial Lamb opening the Fifth Seal. The canvas was an iconic work for twentieth-century artists and Picasso, who knew it in Paris, used it as an inspiration for Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.
This work is a large fragment of one of three altarpieces El Greco was commissioned to paint in 1608 for the church of the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist (also called the Tavera Hospital in honor of its co-founder, Cardinal-Archbishop Juan de Tavera, 1472–1545), just outside the walls of Toledo. This picture (originally measuring about 330 x 211 cm.) was meant for one of the side altars—that to the right of the high altar; the other lateral altarpiece, for the left-hand altar, depicts the Annunciation (cut in two: upper part National Gallery, Athens; 115 x 217 cm.; main part Colección Santander Central Hispano, Madrid; 294 x 209 cm.). The Baptism, meant for the high altar, is now installed on a side altar in the church. The commission was El Greco's last large-scale undertaking, and he did not live to complete it (in 1621 the paintings are decribed as "sketched"; see below). The Baptism and Annunciation were finished by his son Jorge Manuel, but the MMA picture remains as El Greco left it. In 1880, it was cut down by a Prado restorer (as much as 69 inches may be missing from the top and as much as 8 inches from the left side), and badly damaged, but remains the best testimony to the visionary heights of the artist's late style.
The elongated, ecstatic figure of Saint John appears in the foreground, his head turned imploringly heavenward, his arms raised. Behind him are two groups of figures: two male and two female on the left; three male on the right, reaching upward for white garments distributed by a flying cherub. It was Cossio (1908) who first proposed that these features suggested a visualization of the Book of Revelation (6:9–11), when Saint John the Evangelist witnesses the breaking of the Fifth Seal by the Lamb of God. Unlike Dürer, who illustrated this passage in the upper register of one of his celebrated woodcuts of the Apocalypse, and Matthias Gerung, in his 1546 woodcut, El Greco shows no altar. However, it is possible that an altar may have been represented above, in the sky, surrounded by angels, as in Dürer's and Gerung's prints.
Such a scene would have been important to the hospital, which offered spiritual consolation as well as physical care to patients, promising salvation to those who died within its walls. Pedro Salazar de Mendoza, the hospital administrator responsible for the commission, was an admirer of El Greco and a collector of his works. As Mann (1986) has shown, the spiritual ministry of the hospital was emphasized by Salazar de Mendoza, whose active interest in the altarpieces must be taken into account. The hospital was empowered to grant indulgences that, in effect, enabled patients to join the ranks of the elect; this circumstance encouraged Mann to suggest that the MMA altarpiece actually shows The Resurrection of the Elect. Without the upper portion of the altarpiece, the precise identification of the event shown is bound to remain speculative—if, indeed, the intent was to illustrate a specific event rather than allude to the implications of John's apocalyptic vision. Mann also suggests that it was the MMA painting, rather than The Baptism, that was intended for the high altar since, according to the contract, the tympanum of the frame for the main altarpiece was to be decorated with a sculptural group of angels adoring the Lamb of God. That subject would, indeed, have been appropriate for a scene of the Apocalypse—but no less so for a Baptism. It is difficult to get around the very specific notice in the 1621 inventory of Jorge Manuel's possessions in which The Baptism is referred to as the principal altarpiece, and the fact that the hospital was dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. (For the 1621 inventory, which includes works inherited by Jorge Manuel from his father, see Javier Docamp and José Riello, La Biblioteca del Greco, exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2014, p. 233: "183. Dos quadros bosquejados para los colaterales del ospital grandes" and, "184. El bautismo prinzipal del ospital"). What cannot be doubted is that, when taken together, the three scenes offered a synopsis of God's plan of salvation by showing the incarnation of Christ, the manifestation of his divine mission, and a vision of the elect at the end of time.
In realizing this hallucinatory scene, El Greco's imagination returned to Rome and Michelangelo. The pose of one of the nude figures ultimately derives from the sculpture group of the Laocöon. The pose of Saint John recalls Michelangelo's Hamen in one of the pendentives of the Sistine Chapel, although as Joannides (1995) has remarked, it was Michelangelo's "spiritual expressiveness" that interested El Greco, rather than the direct transcription of a motif.
Despite its unfinished and truncated state, the picture remains enormously powerful. Its visionary treatment of space and dematerialization of form have been shown to have played a crucial role in the genesis of Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon of 1907 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) (see Richardson 1987 and Laessøe 1987). Picasso knew the painting from visits to the Paris studio of the painter Ignacio Zuloaga, who had acquired it in 1905. The painting also loomed large among the German Expressionists (see Schroeder 1998). Later, it was sketched by Jackson Pollock (see Baetjer 1997).
[2011; adapted from Christiansen et al. 2003]
the artist, El Greco, Toledo (until d. 1614; posthumous inv., 1614, fol. 4v, as [one of] "los quadros del ospital enpezados"); his son, Jorge Manuel Theotocopoulos, Toledo (1614–d. 1631; inv., 1621, no. 183, as one of "Dos quadros bosquejados para los colaterales del ospital grandes"); José Núñez de Prado y Fernández, Madrid; Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, Prime Minister of Spain, Madrid (before 1890); Dr. Rafael Vázquez de la Plaza, Córdoba (by 1890–1905; sold for 1,000 pesetas to Zuloaga); Ignacio Zuloaga, Paris and Zumaya, Spain (1905–d. 1945); Museo Zuloaga, Zumaya (1945–56; sold to Newhouse); [Newhouse Galleries, New York, 1956; sold to MMA]
Madrid. Museo Nacional de Pintura y Escultura. "Exposición de las obras de Domenico Theotocopuli, llamado El Greco," 1902, no. 21 (as "Amor Divino y Amor Profano," lent by Sr. D. Raphael Vázquez de la Plaza, Córdoba).
London. New Burlington Galleries. 1938 [an exhibition of works by Zuloaga to which the artist lent this picture from his collection].
Amsterdam. Rijksmuseum. "De triomf van het maniërisme," 1955, no. 62 (lent by Museo Zuloaga, Zumaya).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 217.
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," September 24–December 31, 1979, not in catalogue.
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981, no. 102.
Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "From El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 13, 1992–April 11, 1993, no. 5.
Athens. National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. "El Greco: Identity and Transformation: Crete, Italy, Spain," October 18, 1999–January 17, 2000, no. 90.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Visions du Futur: Une histoire des peurs et des espoirs de l'humanité," October 3, 2000–January 1, 2001, no. 121.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "El Greco," October 7, 2003–January 11, 2004, no. 60.
London. National Gallery. "El Greco," February 11–May 23, 2004, no. 60.
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History," November 17, 2006–March 28, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III," April 20–July 27, 2008, no. 5.
Durham, N.C. Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. "El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III," August 21–November 9, 2008, no. 5.
London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Masterpiece a Month: Presiding Genius," April 1–30, 2011, no catalogue.
Düsseldorf. Museum Kunstpalast. "El Greco and Modernism," April 28–August 12, 2012, unnumbered cat. (as "The Opening of the Fifth Seal [The Vision of Saint John]).
Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "El Greco y la pintura moderna," June 24–October 5, 2014, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "El Greco in New York," November 4, 2014–February 1, 2015, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," March 18–September 4, 2016, unnumbered cat. (colorpl. 22).
Manuel B. Cossío. El Greco. Madrid, 1908, vol. 1, pp. 355–57, 359, 603, no. 327; vol. 2, pl. 66, dates this picture to El Greco's "last period" between 1604 and 1614; finds the identification of the subject as Profane Love inexplicable and arbitrary and believes it more likely represents Chapter 6:9 of the Apocalypse; nevertheless observes that, according to Julián Jiménez of the Prado who restored the painting in 1880, this is the lower part of a larger composition, the upper part of which was called "Sacred Love" due to its religious character; identifies the missing portion as "Angel Concert" in the collection of the heirs of the Marqués de Castro-Serna, Madrid [National Picture Gallery, Athens].
Paul Lafond. "La collection de M. Ignacio Zuloaga." Les arts 7 (February 1908), pp. 22–23, ill., calls it "Sacred and Profane Love", but recognizes the subject as an interpretation of a passage from the Apocalypse of Saint John.
Albert F. Calvert and C. Gasquoine Hartley. El Greco: An Account of His Life and Works. London, 1909, pp. 169–71, pl. 56, calls it "Apocalypse" and dates it to his "final period, 1600–1614"; as in the Zuloaga collection, Paris.
Charles H. Caffin. The Story of Spanish Painting. New York, 1910, p. 89.
Francisco de Borja de San Román y Fernández. El Greco en Toledo: Nuevas investigaciones acerca de la vida y obras de Dominico Theotocópuli. Madrid, 1910, p. 84 n. 1, p. 191, agrees with Cossio [Ref. 1908] that the title "Amor Profano" does not seem appropriate to the picture's subject matter and identifies it instead as "Saint John the Evangelist witnessing the mysteries of the Apocalypse," based on a title, presumably of a small replica or model for it, in El Greco's inventory of April 7, 1614 ("Un S. Juº abangelista q be los misterios del apoca | lipsi pequeño").
Maurice Barrès and Paul Lafond. Le Greco. Paris, , p. 159, call it "Profane Love" and believe that the missing upper half of the painting represents "Divine Love"; supports Cossío's view that this missing portion is in the collection of the heirs of the Marqués de Castro Serna, Madrid [National Picture Gallery, Athens].
August L. Mayer. El Greco: Eine Enführung in das Leben und Wirken des Domenico Theotocopuli gennant El Greco. Munich, 1911, pp. 56, 67, ill., calls it "The Opening of the Fifth Seal (of the Apocalypse)".
Paul Lafond. Le Greco: Essai sur sa vie et sur son oeuvre. Paris, n.d. [after 1911], pp. 68–69.
Hugo Kehrer. "Die Deutung von Grecos "Irdische Liebe"." Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft 4 (1911), p. 324, pl. 69, dates it about 1610 and suggests that El Greco was familiar with Dürer's woodcuts of the Opening of the Fifth and Sixth Seals.
Maurice Barrès. Greco, ou le secret de Tolède. Paris, 1912, p. 177, ill. opp. p. 168 and frontispiece.
Julius Meier-Graefe. "Das Barock Grecos." Kunst und Künstler 10 (1912), p. 87.
Hugo Kehrer. Die Kunst des Greco. Munich, 1914, pp. 83–84, pl. 60, as "The Opening of the Fifth Seal".
Max Dvorák. "Über Greco und den Manierismus." Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 1 (1921–22), pp. 36–38.
Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. El Greco. New York, 1925, pp. 124–26, pl. 33, notes that this painting or a sketch for it was listed in El Greco's posthumous inventory as "un S. Ju° abangelista be los misterios del apocalipsi pequeño"; identifies the seven nude figures as "the souls of them that had been slain [for the word of God]".
C. Nasse. "Tintoretto und Greco." Die Kunst für Alle 41 (1925–26), p. 182.
August L. Mayer. Dominico Theotocopuli, El Greco. Munich, 1926, p. 21, no. 122, pl. 46.
Hugo Kehrer. Spanische Kunst von Greco bis Goya. Munich, 1926, pp. 94–95, 99, ill.
Jo Milward. "The Zuloaga Collection of El Grecos." International Studio 83 (February 1926), pp. 24, 29, ill., as "Sacred and Profane Love"; believes that the kneeling figure on the right, "raises an arms as if to profane the figure of divine love with a signal" and identifies the kneeling figure cloaked in a blue robe as "the figure of divine love"; suggests it was painted from wax models "a custom learnt from the Italians".
Emilio H. del Villar. El Greco en España. Madrid, 1928, p. 110, pl. 16.
Frank Rutter. El Greco (1541–1614). New York, , p. 101, no. 99, as in the collection of Ignacio Zuloaga, Zumaya; dates it 1610–14.
Frank Gray Griswold. El Greco. 1930, pp. 37, 69, dates it between 1601 and 1614.
August L. Mayer. El Greco. Berlin, 1931, p. 137, fig. 112.
Jean Cassou. Le Gréco. Paris, 1931, pp. 45, 56, 58–59.
Raymond Escholier. Greco. Paris, 1937, pp. 142, 149, 151, 153, ill. (overall and detail).
M. Legendre and A. Hartmann. Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. Paris, 1937, pp. 483–84, ill. (overall and detail), as "Sacred and Profane Love," from his last period.
Ludwig Goldscheider. El Greco. London, 1938, pp. 15–16, pls. 215, 217–19 (overall and details), as "Opening of the Fifth Seal"; dates it about 1610–14.
Hans Vollmer inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 33, Leipzig, 1939, p. 7.
Hugo Kehrer. Greco als Gestalt des Manierismus. Munich, 1939, pp. 97, 98–100, fig. 70, dates it after 1610.
Kurt Pfister. El Greco. Zürich, 1941, pp. 143–45, ill. (overall and details).
Elizabeth du Gué Trapier. "The Son of El Greco." Notes Hispanic 3 (1943), p. 12, observes that the figure of the Magdalen in Jorge Manuel's "Assumption of the Magdalen" (Church at Titulcia) is copied from "the woman above whose head a man holds a veil" in our painting; notes that since Jorge Manuel's painting dates from about 1607 our picture would date "earlier than has been acknowledged until now".
Ignacio de Beryes. Domenicos Theotocopoulos, El Greco. Barcelona, [1944?], pp. 18–19.
Ignacio de Beryes. Ignacio Zuloaga, o una manera de ver a España. Barcelona, , p. 31.
Conde de las Infantas. "¿Dos esculturas del Greco?" Archivo español de arte 18 (July–August 1945), p. 198, fig. 9, notes that the position of the arms of a sculpture of Eve (Conde de las Infantas collection, Madrid), which the author tentatively ascribes to El Greco, is almost identical to that of the central figure in our painting.
Jean Babelon. El Greco. Paris, 1946, pp. 29, 36, pl. 117, as from the artist's last period.
Martin S. Soria. "Some Flemish Sources of Baroque Painting in Spain." Art Bulletin 30 (December 1948), p. 251, notes that for this painting "Greco took the poses of some of the nudes from Goltzius's 'Seven Days of Creation' (Antwerp, 1589)".
Anthony Bertram. El Greco. London, 1949, pl. 45, dates it about 1610–14.
Leo Bronstein. El Greco. New York, 1950, pp. 16, 122–23, ill. (color), cites Meyer Schapiro's unpublished opinion [see Refs. 1950].
José Camón Aznar. Dominico Greco. Madrid, 1950, vol. 2, pp. 948–57, 1371, no. 266, ill. (overall and details), suggests that the missing upper part of the painting may have depicted a lamb on Mount Zion referring to Chapter 14 of the Apocalypse.
Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. La vida y el arte de Ignacio Zuloaga. San Sebastián, Spain, 1950, p. 55 n. 4, discusses Zuloaga's purchase of the painting in Córdoba.
André Malraux. Les voix du silence. [Paris], 1951, pp. 432–33, ill. (detail), as "Sacred and Profane Love".
Jacques Lassaigne. Spanish Painting. Vol. 1, From the Catalan Frescos to El Greco. Geneva, N.Y., 1952, pp. 120–21, ill., as in the Museo Zuloaga, Zumaya; dates it about 1613.
Max Dvorák. "El Greco and Mannerism." Magazine of Art 46 (January 1953), p. 21, observes that some of the figures' poses derive from late drawings by Michelangelo.
Ludwig Goldscheider. El Greco: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures. 3rd ed. London, 1954, pp. 14, 15, pls. 194–97 (overall and details), dates it about 1610.
L. Frolich-Bume. "Three Unknown Drawings for Famous Pictures (Notes on Drawings)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 44 (December 1954), pp. 357, 360, publishes a red chalk drawing in the collection of Dr. Victor Bloch, London, as a preparatory drawing for our painting.
Antonina Vallentin. El Greco. Garden City, N.Y., 1955, pp. 276–77, pl. 98.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "The Triumph of Mannerism?" Art News 54 (September 1955), pp. 19, 62, ill.
Paul Guinard. El Greco: Biographical and Critical Study. [Lausanne?], , pp. 104–6, ill.
G. Marañón. El Greco y Toledo. Madrid, 1956, pp. 59, 61, 77, ill. (details), believes that the figure of Saint John is identical to the "Toledan woman from 'Three Heads of Angels'" (Marañon collection, Madrid).
Halldor Soehner. "Greco in Spanien." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 3rd ser., 8 (1957), pp. 182, 186, 189, 193, lists it under late works, 1608–14.
Juan Antonio Gaya Nuño. La pintura española fuera de España. Madrid, 1958, p. 206, no. 1425.
Martin Soria in George Kubler and Martin Soria. Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and their American Dominions, 1500 to 1800. Baltimore, 1959, p. 219, calls it "a scene of divine charity: the 'Clothing of Martyrs' by angels sent from heaven" (Rev. 6: 9–11); notes that the large figure on the left has been identified as Saint John but "may derive visually from one of the angels with raised arms 'holding the four winds of the earth' (Rev. 7:1)"; dates it 1610–14.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "El Greco's 'Vision of Saint John'." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (June 1959), pp. 241–62, ill. (overall in color, details, and detail on cover), identifies it with one of the two unfinished paintings for the side altars of the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist in Toledo and notes that large areas of the red-brown preparation are still visible; observes that it is proportionally shorter than the other works made for the Hospital and believes its height originally measured about 152 in.; thinks the small lost Apocalypse mentioned in El Greco's inventories [see Ref. San Román y Fernández 1910] was one of the copies the artist is known to have made as records of his compositions; believes our painting was cut down because El Greco had not yet finished the upper portion and that "the empty passages above the figures and the flying babies seem to imply this".
Malcolm Vaughan. "The Connoisseur in America." Connoisseur 144 (November 1959), pp. 134–35, ill.
Marvin D. Schwartz. "News and Views from New York." Apollo 70 (July 1959), p. 6, ill.
Karl Ipser. El Greco, der Maler des christlichen Weltbildes. Braunschweig, 1960, pp. 285–88, ill.
Hugo Kehrer. Greco in Toledo: Höhe und Vollendung, 1577–1614. Stuttgart, 1960, pp. 71–73, figs. 77–79 (overall and details), suggests the possible influence of Mattias Gerung's 1546 woodcut the "Opening of the Fifth Seal" (fig. 80).
Harold E. Wethey. El Greco and His School. Princeton, 1962, vol. 1, p. 51, figs. 152–53 (overall and detail); vol. 2, pp. 23, 77, 84, 154, no. 120, as "documented in 1608–14"; identifies the subject as "Saint John the Evangelist as he contemplates the souls of martyrs awaiting release"; notes that the "Angel Concert" in Athens was cut from El Greco's Annunciation in the Banco Urquijo, Madrid, and is convinced that the upper part of our canvas, removed in 1880 by Julián Jiménez during restoration, was destroyed; suggests that the small lost "Apocalypse" mentioned in Inventories I & II was a study for our painting; claims that the invention of this theme was entirely El Greco's and not Jorge Manuel's; believes the drawing with Victor Block [Vitale Bloch] in London [see Refs. Frölich-Bum 1954 and Turner 2007] is a sketch after the painting rather than El Greco's preparatory study for it, due to its "mediocre formlessness"; doubts the drawing is a modern forgery, however, as it was inscribed "Scuola venetiana XVI sec." at the time of its purchase in 1942.
Gotthard Jedlicka. Spanish Painting. New York, 1964, pp. 24, 199, no. 30, pl. 30.
Arnold Hauser. Mannerism: The Crisis of the Renaissance and the Origin of Modern Art. London, 1965, pp. 269–70, pls. 301–2 (overall and detail), identifies the figure in the left foreground as Saint John.
Ellis Waterhouse. El Greco. [London], 1965, pp. 5–6, 8, no. 16, ill., pl. 16 (color).
Georg J. Reimann. El Greco. Leipzig, 1966, pp. 56–57, fig. 59.
Michael Levey. "The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries." 20,000 Years of World Painting. Ed. Hans L. C. Jaffé. New York, 1967, p. 224, ill. (color).
Tiziana Frati. L'opera completa del Greco. Milan, 1969, p. 125, no. 173c, pls. 39–40 (color, overall and detail), dates it about 1608–14.
Enrique Lafuente Ferrari. El Greco: The Expressionism of His Final Years. New York, 1969, pp. 47, 67, 80–81, 138, ill., pls. 10–12 (color, overall and details), calls it "the summit of El Greco's progress toward an all-pervading expressionism".
Erwin Walter Palm. "El Greco's 'Laokoon'." Pantheon 27 (March–April 1969), p. 131.
Erwin Walter Palm. "Zu zwei späten Bildern von El Greco." Pantheon 28 (July–August 1970), pp. 294–96, ill., dates our picture 1608 and claims it was inspired by Giorgio Ghisi's 1554 engraving of "The Resurrection of the Flesh," which El Greco probably owned.
José Gudiol. El Greco. Barcelona, 1971, pp. 267–70, no. 226, figs. 248–49 (overall in color and detail), dates it 1608–14.
Manuel B. Cossío. El Greco. Ed. Natalia Cossío de Jiménez. definitive ed. Barcelona, 1972, pp. 60, 205–7, 369–70, 397, no. 136, ill., dates it between 1604 and 1614; believes that the "Concert of Angels" in Athens is the missing upper part of our painting.
Jacques Lassaigne. El Greco. London, 1973, pp. 176–79, 251.
David Davies. El Greco. Oxford, 1976, p. 15, no. 37, pl. 37 (color), dates it 1608–14.
Kazimierz Zawanowski. El Greco. Warsaw, 1979, unpaginated, no. 27, ill. (color), dates it about 1610.
Ron Johnson. "Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon" and the Theatre of the Absurd." Arts Magazine 55 (October 1980), pp. 107, 110, ill., sees our painting as a source for Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon" (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
John Pope-Hennessy inProfil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: de Ramsès à Picasso. Exh. cat., Galerie des Beaux-Arts. Bordeaux, 1981, pp. 27, 86–87, no. 102, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer. "El Greco." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 39 (Summer 1981), p. 26, ill. (color).
Denys Sutton. "The Aesthete of Toledo." Apollo, n.s., 116 (September 1982), p. 155.
Edward J. Sullivan. "El Greco of Toledo." Art Journal 42 (Fall 1982), p. 239.
William B. Jordan et al. El Greco of Toledo. Ed. William B. Jordan. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Boston, 1982, pp. 171, 174–75, pl. 28 (color), believes that our painting was one of "two large sketched paintings for the side altars of the Hospital" listed in Jorge Manuel's inventory, and identifies the other one as the "Annunciation" (Banco Urquijo, Madrid) which originally included, as the top part of its composition, the "Concert of Angels" (National Pinakothiki, Athens); notes that these paintings were sketched by El Greco and that Jorge Manuel probably intended to finish them; speculates that they were not accepted "because they were unfinished and because the growing interest in a naturalistic style made them unsuitable to contemporary taste".
Richard G. Mann. "The Altarpieces for the Hospital of Saint John the Baptist, Outside the Walls, Toledo." Studies in the History of Art [Figures of Thought: El Greco as Interpreter of History, Tradition, and Ideas] 11 (1982), pp. 57–76, ill. (overall and detail), discusses the iconographic program of El Greco's altarpieces for the Hospital chapel, noting that it was probably determined by Pedro Salazar de Mendoza, administrator of the Hospital; stresses the close connection between the iconography and certain passages in the "Comentarios sobre el catechismo" of Bartolomé Carranza de Miranda, Archbishop of Toledo from 1558–76; believes our painting was intended for the main altar of the chapel, since a sculptural group of Angels Adoring the Lamb—to which it would be iconographically connected—is mentioned in the 1608 contract as forming a tympanum above the main altar; observes that apart from the Baptism, which is still in the Hospital, the subjects of El Greco's other chapel altarpieces can be deduced from a 1635 contract to Félix Castelo in which he agreed to paint large versions of the Incarnation, Baptism and Apocalyptic Vision, as well as smaller canvases of the Preaching of John the Baptist and the Beheading of John the Baptist.
Richard G. Mann. "El Greco's Altarpieces: Three Representative Commissions." PhD diss., New York University, 1982, pp. 326, 354–71, 374–82, 387, no. 112, fig. 49, claims that our painting was influenced by Titian's "Vision of St. John the Evangelist" (National Gallery, Washington) and Hispano-Flemish paintings, especially Jan Provost's "Last Judgement" (Hospital of Saint John, Bruges).
George R. Allen. El Greco: Two Studies. Philadelphia, 1984, pp. 47–54, pl. 11 (overall and details), attributes it to El Greco's workshop on stylistic grounds; believes that certain figures have been lifted from other later compositions by both El Greco and Jorge Manuel and inserted into the painting in haphazard fashion.
Richard G. Mann. El Greco and His Patrons: Three Major Projects. 1986, pp. 75, 111, 122, 125, 134–37, 142–46, 149–50, fig. 37, proposes "the final resurrection of the Elect" as the subject of the painting.
Carlo L. Ragghianti. Periplo del Greco. Milan, 1987, pp. 157, figs. 59–60 (color, overall and details).
John Richardson. "Picasso's Apocalyptic Whorehouse." New York Review (April 23, 1987), pp. 40–47, ill., discusses Ignacio's Zuloaga's acquisition of the painting in 1905, Picasso's continued access to the picture in Zuloaga's Paris studio, and its influence on Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon" (Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Rolf Laessøe. "A Source in El Greco for Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon"." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 110 (October 1987), pp. 131–36, ill., believes it was a source for Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon" both artistically and as a representation of Profane Love.
Per Jonas Storsve. "Les Demoiselles at the Musée Picasso." Apollo 127 (April 1988), p. 278.
William Rubin inLes Demoiselles d'Avignon. Exh. cat., Musée Picasso. Paris, 1988, vol. 1, pp. 4–5, cat. no. 1, ill.; vol. 2, pp. 432, 461, 464–69, ill. (overall and detail), believes it was a source for Picasso's "Demoiselles d'Avignon," but claims that Picasso would have interpreted the subject as "Sacred and Profane Love".
Federico Revilla. "Nueva interpretación de una obra del 'Greco'." Lecturas de historia del arte/Ephialte 1 (1989), pp. 163–74, ill., identifies the large figure to the left as Mary Magdalen and proposes a new title as "Mary Magdalen, Angel of the Resurrection".
Monique de Beaucorps. La peinture espagnole. Paris, 1990, pp. 38–39, ill. (color).
Richard G. Mann inSpanish Paintings of the Fifteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Washington, 1990, pp. 42–43.
John Richardson with the collaboration of Marilyn McCully. A Life of Picasso. Vol. 1, 1881–1906. New York, 1991, pp. 87, 429–31, 474, ill., asserts that this painting, which Picasso saw regularly in the Paris studio of Zuloaga "had an incalculable influence on his style, beliefs and aspirations; it reconfirmed his faith in his 'alma española' (his 'Spanish soul'); and it played a key role in the conception of 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, not only in its size, format and composition, but in its apocalyptic power"; sees the central group of our picture reflected months before in Picasso's "Two Nudes" of winter 1906 (Museum of Modern Art, New York); remarks that Rodin claimed to loathe the El Greco, although "in certain respects it anticipated his "Gates of Hell".
Deborah Krohn et al. inFrom El Greco to Cézanne: Masterpieces of European Painting from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., National Gallery Alexandros Soutzos Museum. Athens, 1992, pp. 12, 14, 106, 108–11, 116 nn. 88, 92, 94, 96, p. 306, no. 5, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Helmut Feld. Mutmaßungen zur religiösen Bildaussage in Manierismus und Barock: Tintoretto—El Greco—Bernini. Tübingen, 1992, pp. 37, 49, 50.
José Álvarez Lopera. El Greco: La obra esencial. [Madrid], , pp. 223, 244, 248, 250–54, ill.
Paul Joannides. "El Greco and Michelangelo." El Greco of Crete: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Iráklion, Crete, 1995, pp. 213–14, ill. (color), finds plausible Mann's identification of our painting's subject as the "Resurrection of the Elect"; believes the figure at the far left derives from that of Hamaan in Michelangelo's pendentive fresco "The Crucifixion of Hamaan" (Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome); sees an affinity also with Giulio Clovio's copy after Michelangelo's "Resurrection" (Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam).
Maria Vassilaki. "Three Questions on the Modena Triptych." El Greco of Crete: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Iráklion, Crete, 1995, pp. 130, ill. (detail), notes the iconographic similarity between the figure of Adam in El Greco's "Modena Triptych" (Galleria Estense, Modena) and the nude figure on the right in our painting.
Ephi Foundoulaki. "Greco/Cézanne: La filière reperée." El Greco of Crete: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held on the Occasion of the 450th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Iráklion, Crete, 1995, pp. 574–78, 582, ill. (color).
María Margarita Cuyás inEl Greco: Su revalorización por el Modernismo catalán. Ed. José Milicua. Exh. cat., Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Barcelona, 1996, pp. 58–59.
Fernando Marías inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 13, New York, 1996, p. 341.
Robert S. Lubar et al. inPicasso and the Spanish Tradition. Ed. Jonathan Brown. New Haven, 1996, pp. 25, 27, 30, fig. 25 (color).
John Richardson with the collaboration of Marilyn McCully. A Life of Picasso. Vol. 2, 1907–1917. New York, 1996, pp. 15, 17, 308, 442 nn. 13–15, ill.
Fernando Marías. Greco: Biographie d'un peintre extravagant. Paris, 1997, pp. 285–86, 310 nn. 49–50, ill. p. 287 (color), argues that the painting does not follow the Apocalypse of Saint John and calls it "Resurrection of the Dead" or the "Vision of the Apocalypse"; rejects Mann's suggestion [see Refs. 1982] that a missing upper part of the canvas [sic (Mann does not refer to an upper portion of the canvas, but to a sculpted tympanum above the canvas)] may have represented the Adoration of the Lamb; finds Mann's identification of the foreground figure as a visionary Saint John the Evangelist unconvincing, observing that El Greco would have represented this saint as an old man.
Katharine Baetjer. "Pollock Interprets the Old Masters: Sketchbooks I and II." The Jackson Pollock Sketchbooks in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997 [vol. 4], pp. 47–51, figs. 18 (Ref. Goldscheider 1938, pl. 219), 20, illustrates drawings (I:6r, I:21v) by Pollock based on this painting.
Yasunari Kitaura. "El Greco y Miguel Ángel: Problemas del dibujo en El Greco." Goya (January–February 1997), p. 150, notes that several figures in our painting derive from Michelangelo's drawing of Laocoon (Windsor Castle).
Veronika Schroeder. El Greco im frühen deutschen Expressionismus: Von der Kunstgeschichte als Stilgeschichte zur Kunstgeschichte als Geistesgeschichte. PhD diss., Universität München. Frankfurt am Main, 1998, pp. 113, 118–21, fig. 1.
José Manuel Pita Andrade inEl Greco: Identity and Transformation; Crete, Italy, Spain. Ed. José Álvarez Lopera. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. Milan, 1999, pp. 160–61, 437.
Jean Louis Schefer. Sommeil du Greco. Paris, 1999, pp. 20, 48, 68, ill.
Joanne Snow-Smith. "El Greco's Religious Oeuvre in Spain: Reflections of Titian's Venetian Light and Michelangelo's Figura Serpentinata." El Greco in Italy and Italian Art: Proceedings of the International Symposium. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Rethymno, Crete, 1999, pp. 424–25, ill., notes the influence of Michelangelo's "Dying Slave" (Louvre, Paris) on the poses of four figures in this painting.
Jutta Held. "El Greco, 'Die Blindenheilung'." El Greco in Italy and Italian Art: Proceedings of the International Symposium. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Rethymno, Crete, 1999, pp. 132–33, fig. 6 (color).
Yasunari Kitaura. "El Greco. La Antigüedad encontrada a través del Renacimiento italiano." El Greco in Italy and Italian Art: Proceedings of the International Symposium. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Rethymno, Crete, 1999, p. 262.
Fernando Checa. "Dos reacciones a Tiziano en El Renacimiento español: Navarrete el Mudo y El Greco." El Greco in Italy and Italian Art: Proceedings of the International Symposium. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Rethymno, Crete, 1999, pp. 322–23, ill. (detail), as "The Opening of the Seventh Seal".
Leticia Ruiz. El Greco. Madrid, 2000, pp. 57, 59.
Marc Philonenko inVisions du Futur: Une histoire de peurs et des espoirs de l'humanité. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 2000, pp. 127, 266, no. 121, ill. (color).
Fernando Marías. El Greco in Toledo. Ed. Moira Johnston. London, 2001, pp. 121–22, 125–26, ill. (color), calls it "Resurrection of the Flesh or The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse" and dates it 1608–14.
Gómez et al. inEl Greco. Ed. Sylvia Ferino-Pagden and Fernando Checa Cremades. Exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum. Vienna, 2001, pp. 108, 110, 115, 120, ill. (color).
Keith Christiansen et al. inEl Greco. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. London, 2003, pp. 9, 39, 206, 210–13, 240, no. 60, ill. (color, overall and details) and color detail on cover.
José Álvarez Lopera et al. inEl Greco / colaboraciones . . . Barcelona, 2003, pp. 18, 49, 168, 377–78, 414, 448, 455, colorpl. LXIV, see a stylistical dependence on El Greco and on this painting in particular in Thomas Hart Benton's five murals known as "The American Historical Epic" (1919–24), with their elongated figures and vertical shadows; see echos of this painting (then in the Zuloaga collection, Paris) in Robert Delaunay's "Ville de Paris" of 1911–12; mention earlier discussion of the picture's influence on Picasso's 1907 "Demoiselles d'Avignon".
Niki Loizidi. "The Construction of Space in El Greco's Paintings after the Italian Experience." El Greco: The First Twenty Years in Spain (Proceedings of the International Symposium, Rethymno, Crete, 22–24 October, 1999). Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Rethymno, Crete, 2005, pp. 258–59.
Charlotte Hale. "Dating Velázquez's 'The Supper at Emmaus'." Metropolitan Museum Journal 40 (2005), p. 71, notes that the type of canvas (called 'mantelillo' or 'mantel') used for this painting was "woven with intermittent clusters of small diamonds," and was used during the seventeenth century in Naples, Toledo, and Seville.
Anna Reuter inSpanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History. Ed. Carmen Giménez and Francisco Calvo Serraller. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Madrid, 2006, pp. 136–37, ill. (color).
Eric Storm. De ontdekking van El Greco: Aartsvader van de moderne kunst. Amsterdam, 2006, pp. 69, 101, 139, 149, 160–61, 168–69, 183, 190, 197, 214, 222, fig. 19.
Nicholas Turner. "A Proposal for El Greco as a Draftsman." Master Drawings 45 (Autumn 2007), pp. 317,324 n. 73 fig. 46, suggests with caution that the red chalk drawing formerly in the collection of Vitale Bloch, London (present location unknown) [see Refs. Frölich-Bum 1954 and Wethey 1962] is a study for our painting, "given the fluency and inventiveness of the handling and the differences in detail between it and the New York picture".
David Davies. "El Greco's Scheme of Decoration in Santo Domingo el Antiguo: The Creative Process." El Greco's Studio. Ed. Nicos Hadjinicolaou. Iráklion, 2007, p. 130.
Sarah Schroth, and Ronni Baer, Sarah Schroth. El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 2008, pp. 187, 322, 338, no. 5, ill. pp. 184, 194 (color, overall and detail).
Francisco Calvo Serraller. "Picasso et l'école espagnole." Picasso et les maîtres. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 2008, p. 64, fig. 3 (color).
Eric Storm. El descubrimiento del Greco: nacionalismo y arte moderno (1860–1914). Madrid, 2011, pp. 70, 102, 137, 147, 156–57, 163–64, 186, 194, 209, 214–15, fig. 44 (color) [Spanish translation of Storm 2006].
Leticia Ruiz Gómez inEl Greco's Visual Poetics. Exh. cat., National Museum of Art, Osaka. [Tokyo], 2012, pp. 204, 267, fig. 11.
María Cruz de Carlos Varona inEl Greco's Visual Poetics. Exh. cat., National Museum of Art, Osaka. [Tokyo], 2012, pp. 211, 270–71, fig. 13.
Michael Scholz-Hänsel inEl Greco and Modernism. Ed. Beat Wismer and Michael Scholz-Hänsel. Exh. cat., Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf. Ostfildern, 2012, pp. 140–43, no. 140, ill. (color).
Birgit Thiemann inEl Greco and Modernism. Ed. Beat Wismer Michael Scholz-Hänsel. Exh. cat., Museum Kunstpalast. Ostfildern, 2012, pp. 377–80, ill. (in photograph of Museo Zumaia interior and portrait of Francisco Cambó).
Nico Van Hout. The Unfinished Painting. [Antwerp], 2012, pp. 4, 102–5, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Fernando Marías. El Greco, Life and Work—A New History. London, 2013, pp. 272–73, 298 n. 314, p. 339, ill. (color).
Javier Barón inEl Greco & la pintura moderna. Ed. Javier Barón. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2014, pp. 124, 137, 140, 164, 168, 185, fig. 101 (color) and ill. pp. 14, 100 (color details).
Veronika Schroeder inEl Greco & la pintura moderna. Ed. Javier Barón. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2014, pp. 207, 232.
Jeffrey Schrader inEl Greco & la pintura moderna. Ed. Javier Barón. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2014, pp. 255, 266, 270, 272, 275 n. 75, fig. 175 (color detail).
Javier Portús inEl Greco & la pintura moderna. Ed. Javier Barón. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2014, p. 277.
Leticia Ruiz Gómez inEl Greco & la pintura moderna. Ed. Javier Barón. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. Madrid, 2014, p. 314.
Andrea Bayer inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, pp. 292–93, colorpl. 22.
Diana Widmaier Picasso inUnfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art [The Met Breuer]. New York, 2016, p. 191.
Old Masters: Part I. Christie's, New York. April 14, 2016, unpaginated, fig. 7 (color), under no. 131.
Hans Aurenhammer inManiera: Pontormo, Bronzino and Medici Florence. Ed. Bastian Eclercy. Exh. cat., Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Munich, 2016, p. 15, fig. 1 (color).
The frame is from Seville and dates to about 1670 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–3). This grand reverse profile Spanish frame is carved of pine and water gilded using both gold and silver leaf over a thick gesso. The sight edge is ornamented with intervals of cabochon paterae whose silver leaf is now darkened from oxidation. The elaborate corners are carved in entwined acanthus caliculi with the addition of a silver-leaf shell, now also darkened, at the sides. A carved acanthus flower forms the center at the top and at the base. Though possibly reworked at a later date, painted reposes in the hollow panel in between are decorated with delicate gilded floral tendrils. The back edge is ornamented with stop fluting. Earlier transparent colored glazes which would have coated the carved gilding have been removed from the surface.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2016; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
When the painting was restored by Julián Jiménez of the Prado in 1880 the upper part of the canvas was cut off; this missing upper portion has never been identified and was probably destroyed.