The Burial of the Lord of Orgaz

ORIGIN OF THE PAINTING

In 1562, the villa of Orgaz had stopped paying. The parish priest filed a lawsuit at the Chancery of Valladolid, which he won in 1569. Therefore, he decided to use the money to honor the memory of the Lord of Orgaz.

He made improvements to his funeral chapel. He commissioned the humanist, Álvar Gómez de Castro to etch an epitaph in Latin remembering the miraculous event and his victory before justice.

The epitaph was etched in stone and placed over his tomb. At the same time, in order to do away with all myths or legends invented, He decided to ask Rome to officially recognize the miracle.

He obtained this by Royal Decree in 1583. Finally, he commissioned one of his parishioners, known as a painter, nicknamed "The Greek", to paint a painting that served as a commemoration of the benefactor and a reminder of the miraculous event.

THE GRECO

Goya and, after this, Picasso and other authors, would see in El Greco the first impressionist.

Effects as surprising as the clear reflection of the face of Saint Stephen in the armor of the Lord of Orgaz, are only blurs the closer they are observed. Doménikos studied painting in Crete, his native island, becoming an icon painter.

Some reminiscences of that style are evident in his later works. He worked in Venice, in the workshop of Titian, and in Rome, studying the works of Michelangelo. Finally he settled down in Toledo in 1577. His life, full of pride and independence, always tended to strengthen his particular and strange style, carefully avoiding imitations. A contemporary defined him as a "man of habits and eccentric ideas, tremendous determination, extraordinary reticence and extreme devotion."

THE PAINTING

On March 15, 1586 an agreement was signed between Don Alonso and El Greco in which the iconography of the lower area of the canvas was fixed very precisely.

The payment would be made after an appraisal, and the painting must be finished for Christmas that same year. The work lasted longer, giving in the spring of 1588. It was assessed by Luis de Velasco and Hernando de Nunciva in 1,200 ducats, an amount that seemed excessive to the pastor, compared to 318 of the "Expolio" of the Cathedral or the 800 of the "San Mauricio" of El Escorial. When not reaching an agreement had to intervene the Archiepiscopal Council, which determined that the 1,200 ducats of the first appraisal were paid.

Although El Greco followed the indications given by D. Alonso, the Cretan will use his vast knowledge of the Eastern iconographic tradition to convey his own vision of the great themes that make up the painting. Art at the service of a genius; a genius at the service of faith.

In 1975, after a thorough scientific study, the painting merited a remarkable restoration by the I.C.R.O.A. In addition to this process, it was dismantled from its original location and arranged where it can now be seen.

theological artistic explanation

Heaven and Earth

The Toledan spirituality of the time influenced a Greco who came from Venice, where the influence of secularism in the arts was already patent. This painting represents the two dimensions of human existence: below the Earth, death, above Heaven, eternal life.

219/5000 El Greco showed himself in the painting what constitutes the Christian horizon of life after death, illuminated by Jesus Christ. They are two worlds clearly differentiated by the style and the use of light and color.

The luminosity represented in the upper part of the painting reflects a clear influence of the Venetian school in El Greco's painting. This luminosity contrasts especially with the lower half of the picture; half that represents the earthly. The sky, painted in the style of the Eastern iconographic tradition, is presented full of the light that flows from the central figure: Jesus Christ. The Virgin Mary on her right and Saint John the Baptist on her left appear within the triangle of light that radiates, while the rest of the characters represented on the celestial sphere will be more enlightened as they come closer to Jesus Christ.

We also find here a great abundance of tones: blue, red, green, ocher .... On the contrary, in the terrestrial sphere there is an almost total absence of light; a dark world only illuminated by the six teas raised by some of the characters attending the funeral. In the same way, the absence of the color that remains almost exclusive to the use of blacks and grays stands out.

There is only one discordant note regarding everything described: the two figures that hold the deceased: San Esteban and San Agustin, dressed in dalmatic in gold and red (symbol of martyrdom) and miter and golden chasuble, respectively. With this way of illuminating the scene, El Greco manages not only to make us see the differences between one world and another, differences that can only be saved by means of the Cross, the only way of union between both as the cross on the right represents, but to call our attention mainly towards Heaven and not towards the Earth, according to the Christian thought in which the goal is Christ.

El Greco chose the style of the Flemish school, very sober and realistic, to convey the religious spirit of the time in the earthly part of the picture. Through the faces of the characters, all of them contemporary nobles, El Greco represents in a different way the attitude of man towards death: some meditating, others crying, others commenting on the event. Finally others realize the miracle, when the body rises to Glory.

There is a special care to represent these characters always with the clothing of the time and this always representing the social status of each character. Thus, the Lord of Orgaz is dressed in the armor of a Castilian knight. Likewise, the nobility and the clergy according to their time.

In the San Esteban chasuble you can see the influences of painters like Titian, in the loose brushwork and the red color. In other details of the chasuble, as the representation of martyrdom, influences of Michelangelo's anatomy studies can be seen.

Death

Halfway between Heaven and Earth we find an angel carrying in his hands a kind of fetus or crisalida, symbol of the soul of the Lord of Orgaz. And that is entering through clouds that resemble a maternal womb. In this way death appears to us not as an end but as a beginning, a birth to eternal life. Death is a birth to the next life.

A vision that is hopeful and full of faith. Likewise, the composition of the painting suggests that the office of the deceased was pictorially related, in which there is a psalm that reads: "To the Paradise the angels take you, upon your arrival the martyrs receive you"

The judgment

Jesus Christ appears as Judge of the arriving soul. Stresses the serenity of his face, his peace, which makes us think of a trial where mercy will have a leading role in the verdict.

One can appreciate the clear Byzantine influence in the representation of this Christ as a pantocrator. This detail is repeated in other works by El Greco.

The Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist intervene as defense lawyers of the soul.

Jesus Christ with his hand indicates Saint Peter, on his right, accompanied by Saint John the Evangelist, who opens the doors of Heaven to the soul of his faithful servant. Surprise the treatment of both the trial and death by the absence of fear and sadness that transmits the picture. Hope is the dominant tone.

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