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Saints Andrew and Francis is a late 16th century artwork by El Greco. It is entirely typical of his saint portraits, which numbered in the many dozen by the end of his career.
El Greco would have been approaching his mid-fifties at the time that he produced this painting, and had taken in a wealth of influences during that time. Italian and Spanish art had a profound effect on his work, though by now he was also starting to incorporate his own ideas on top, forging a unique approach that made his paintings instantly recognisable as his own. The Prado Museum in Madrid hosts this artwork, alongside a good number of his other saint depictions. They were able to acquire a number of items from various collections of the Spanish monarchy and today allow the general public to see them in person. With around forty items from his career in total, the museum is unable to show them all at the same time, though they have released plenty of information on each one via a number of in-depth publications. Some are also put out on loan from time to time, normally when other galleries and museums decide to run exhibitions focused on El Greco himself and seek to supplement their own collections with temporary loans from elsewhere.
Saints Andrew and Francis are depicted in very contrasting attire - with the former in far brighter tones. El Greco was from Crete originally and this fell under the rule of the Venetian Kingdom at that time. This brought Venetian art to the attention of El Greco, and is was famed for its use of bright colour which he would take into his own style. We see it here, with the green and blue tones found in Saint Andrew's clothing and the artist continued to use similar colours even when Spanish influences started to change his artistic direction. One can also see the long, thin fingers of both saints and this was a style which came later in his career. Indeed, the fingers alone would allow historians to place this piece into the last twenty of thirty years of his life, as his previous depictions would be far more in keeping with traditional Renaissance art. The blue sky background with lively cloud formations was also typical of this artist, whilst his indoor portraits tended to be on very neutral backgrounds with minimal detail.
Saints Andrew and Francis took an unusual route to the Prado Museum, having been discovered in the monastery of La Encarnación in Madrid during the early 20th century. Little is known about it prior to that point but its similarity with other El Greco paintings has allowed historians to be fairly accurate in their asssumptions about it. One can immediately compare it to the likes of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Saint Martin and the Beggar and Saint Bernard, for example. Saint Andrew within this piece is pictured leaning over a wooden cross and this was a common way to signify this individual within a painting. They talk with each other, expressing themselves with their hands. The background, lower half, is similar to some of the artist's depictions of Toledo - an attractive part of Spain in which he lived for many years. Thus far, relatively little is known about the artwork prior to it being discovered during the Spanish Civil War, and it may have resided within the monastery for many centuries before being identified as a potential work of the Greek master.