Disrobing of Christ (Lyon, Half Painting Version) 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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This delightful preparatory piece can today be found at the Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon. El Greco produced many items such as this for the large commissioned piece, entitled Disrobing of Christ.

If we compare this study and the later main work, we can quickly determine that El Greco includes the upper half of it here, but leaves out the bottom half. The main piece was tall and narrow where as this cropped half painting switches to landscape dimensions because of this alteration. The detail within it is fairly faithful to the later artwork, meaning that he would have been entirely happy with what was achieved within this Lyon version. We find Christ here looking anguished as he looks up to the sky. A whole series of figures are placed around him, making this far too busy a composition to be released as is. Instead, the larger, longer piece allows more space around the edges of the work, so that things are not quite as cramped. We believe that El Greco made four preparatory paintings in total for the Disrobing of Christ and there may have been earlier drawings as well which have since been lost. After finishing the main piece he would go on to produce several accurate copies of it, though his studio might have been involved in some of these.

The other versions can be found in Oslo, Munich and also Warwickshire in the English Midlands. El Greco regularly released multiple versions of his paintings in order to keep up with the considerable demand which surrounded his career. Churches based locally would regularly ask for paintings to adorn their walls, and his reputation spread quickly across Italy and Spain during his time in the two respective countries. His paintings would, however, fall out of fashion for a number of years after his death before his entire career was rediscovered in around the 19th century. Since then the public have universally approved of his work, and the unique approach that he took which helped to encourage many later art movements and artistic styles. He was contemporary for his age, no doubt, and offered something different within the period of 16th and 17th century art. The same can be said for a number of painters, including female artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi.

The main artwork was completed between the years of 1577–1579 and immediately installed at the Sacristy of Toledo Cathedral, despite some criticism from those running the cathedral. In total there were around seventeen different versions of this piece completed in total, making it one of the most reproduced scenes from the artist's career. It is easy to see how the artist became so profitable as his reputation soared, which was not always the case for even the greatest artists. Today the main piece is amongst the highlights of his career, whilst the half painting from Lyon offers us an insight into his working practices, and also reminds us of the role that his studio played within his career. El Greco employed his son as an assistant, and eventually the lead artist within the studio, hoping that the family legacy might continue for several generations after his eventual passing.

Disrobing of Christ (Lyon, Half Painting Version) in Detail El Greco