Concert of Angels El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

Concert of Angels is a painting from 1608 which today resides at the National Gallery of Greece, Athens. Despite being over two metres wide, it is actually believe to have originally been a part of a larger piece, before being cut out and sold on separately.

Despite the demise of the rest of the original composition, which is left is still quite a stunning piece. The lack of space around the main figures is perhaps explained by the abrupt process that was carried out, as El Greco is unlikely to have planned this piece with such a layout in the first place. One can only wonder about what other elements existed around this central piece. What is left is particularly expressive, leading some to suggest that it might have actually been a study for another work - that might explain how it came to be cut up. Alternatively, it may have been simply that the artist was approaching the end of his career and by this point his expressive nature was becoming more and more bold. We can see within Concert of Angels just how he would later influence Expressionist artists, for example, where even within the early 17th century we were starting to see elements of abstract art, which would start the evolution towards the extreme techniques which appeared in the 20th century.

The composition itself features a choir of angels, in a variety of postures. The method of having figures stand with their backs to the viewer feels unusual but actually was used several times by the artist and connects directly with the Mannerist movement, in which this was commonly seen. The general concensus is that the artist's son may have worked on various elements of the piece, and this was fairly typical of El Greco's later years. He struggled to keep up with the high workload which came about once his reputation had soared to new levels. He received commissions from Italy and Spain and rather than rejecting requests he chose to include others from his studio within the working process. Although he took on some technically skilled painters, including his son, no-one could match his levels of innovation and flair, meaning he had to serve as a supervisor over each project, normally leaving easier, or less significant elements for his colleagues to do.

The artist would lose popularity after his death for several centuries before being re-discovered in around the 19th century. That may seem surprising because of the quality and unique nature of his work, but this has also happened to a number of great artists from the past. Concert of Angels is believed to have been cut down in the 19th century, which would suggest that the piece was not actually a study piece, but a completed artwork that for some reason a later owner decided to reduce in size. As with many artists from the 16th and 17th century, few details exist on many of their paintings, and even today some items can be discovered and re-attributed to themselves, or their studio. One the more positive note, this piece resides in the artist's home country of Greece, who continue to celebrate their gifted son.