Christ the Saviour El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Christ the Saviour was completed by El Greco, in collaboration with his workshop, in around 1608-1614. The item is owned today by the Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain and normally it is to be found out on display.

The scene in front of us here features Christ alone, in a traditional portrait layout. He is captured from the waist up in front of a dark, plain background. He rests his left hand on some furniture whilst lifted his right in a gesture found in many El Greco paintings. A halo appears around the edges of his head, underlining his divinity for anyone who has not already identified Christ within this portrait. The loose area of bright light contrasts against the dark tones which surround it. Christ wears a purple tunic which receives light around its folds, with drapery being one of his most accomplished skills. Christ is easily identifiable with his long beard and hair, following the traditional look given to him by western artists during this period. His face is long and slightly gaunt which was also how El Greco covered most of his subjects, both religious figures such as this, but also local Spanish figures who would model for him in person. This helps us to identify El Greco portraits fairly easily, with long, prominent noses and wide open dark eyes being hallmarks of his approach. Also notice how his fingers and long and thin, which was another signature look to the paintings of this artist, as well as for members of his studio.

This piece, Christ the Saviour, is believed to have been a part of a wider series produced for the Church of Almadrones in Guadalajara. It followed fairly closely on from other related series and so the scope of the project was fairly clearly defined. We do know that there other items from this project are also on display at the Prado Museum, namely Saint James, Saint Thomas and Saint Paul, and each has been examined in close detail by its present owners. They have around forty items from El Greco's career in total, though some also have a connection to his studio as well. They describe how Christ's gesture is to give blessing to the viewer, and other similar versions have been uncovered elsewhere in European art collections. Normally the artist would feature a robe over a tunic but in this example he has attempted to reduce Christ down to a simplistic, modest presentation which reminds us of his sacrifice for others. By contrast, nobleman of El Greco's era would often ask for their own depictions to boast wealth and power, giving a contrast in style and image. El Greco was a deeply religious man himself and so would have been careful in how he depicted an iconic figure such as Christ.

Jesus Christ would feature many times over within the career of El Greco, with other examples including the likes of Disrobing of Christ, The Resurrection and also The Baptism of Christ. He captured many scenes from the life of Christ within his work, and these were regularly requests by his patrons. He would fill the walls of many local churches and monasteries with his huge murals, whilst in smaller, quieter parts of theses buildings they might install some of his smaller, more sensitive portraits. He became highly significant in the latter part of his career and had no shortage of requests. This would mean that an effective studio became a necessity and he employed his son to run it, after teaching him to become an artist in his own right. This involvement of assistants would lead to some question marks arising over the attributions of his later pieces, and some of those will never be truly answered in the future.