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View and Plan of Toledo is an unusual piece from El Greco's career and follows on around eight years after he produced his much loved View of Toledo. The artist spent many years living in the town of Toledo and found this environment truly inspiring.
The composition features a panoramic view of this picturesque part of Spain. He looks down over the town from some hills above and also includes the rolling countryside which can be found just outside its boundaries. El Greco incorporates an emotional and aggressive sky above, which provides the right atmosphere for the series of figures who appear just above Toledo itself. A bolt of lightning or beam of light appears to strike through, bringing these figures into play. In the near foreground he then prepends this cityscape with a young man holding a map, which then connects to the title of the work. It is certainly an unusual composition, particularly for the early 17th century but by this point the artist was coming towards the end of his career and as such became more and more ambitious as he attempted to make his final years as progressive and brave as possible. El Greco's time in Toledo is discussed in more detail within our biography. The artist used bright tones, often with sharply contrasting colours alongside, and this seemed to suit landscape art, though most of his paintings were portraits or themes of a religious nature.
View and Plan of Toledo has been given slightly different dates by different sources, but the general concensus is that El Greco produced it somewhere between 1608-1610. That would place it around a decade after his majestic landcape painting, View of Toledo, which would itself inspire so many artists from later centuries. El Greco brought something truly unique to that period, with an incredible drama which even the later Baroque painters would struggle to match. This was an artist who had studied and learnt from the great masters of both Italy and Spain, and this combination appeared unstoppable. Despite falling out of favour with historians until around the 19th century, the public have consistently shown a great love for his work, recognising the unique and exciting nature of his work, even when tackling themes that had already been seen for many centuries. The artist himself would produce a number of other scenes of Toledo within his career and its landscape would certainly impact the way in which he incorporated elements of the outdoors into all of his work from the point at which he arrived in this Spanish town.
View and Plan of Toledo is over two metres in width, allowing the artist to incorporate huge levels of detail across the town itself. It now resides within the Museo de El Greco, Toledo, which is clearly a fitting location. That small institution continues to educate new generations on the importance and brilliance of the artist's work, as well as his strong connection to the town itself. They host a good number of artworks from his career and it strengthens this Greek painter's legacy within Spain, where many locals today treat him as an honourary Spaniard. Researchers in the region of Toledo have actually worked out that El Greco moved certain buildings within Toledo for the purposes of this painting, so that the composition worked more effectively, but that the map itself has the correct layout. It is rare for an artwork to be examined in quite this level of detail, but perhaps unsurprising in this case, because of El Greco's fame right across the world.