Fundación Casa Ducal de Medinaceli

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Cristo Resucitado

El Greco designed and crafted a tabernacle and monstrance, probably based on those of the monastery of El Escorial, for the altar of the provisional chapel of the Hospital Tavera--which was to be crowned with his sculpture of the Cristo resucitado--between 1595 and 1598. This work ended up on the new high altar of the great chapel [] opened in 1624. Shortly after executing it in 1608, Domenikos planned and began work on the new high altarpiece and the two side altarpieces, which would have been a masterpiece of church decoration had the first been executed according to his designs and adorned with the paintings envisaged by the Cretan.

Pedro Salazar de Mendoza (1549-1629), the hospital's administrator and a friend of the painter's, hired him to produce the work which, on its completion in 1598, led to further grounds for a dispute between the artist and his client. According to the contract, both were to appoint appraisers and did so in July--the sculptor Toribio González de la Sierra and the joiner Luis Navarro, respectively--and empowered Don Pedro Lasso de la Vega to apoint a third should the two fail to reach an agreement; the former valued it at 8,950 reales and the latter at 21,712; the disagreement led to the intervention of Don Pedro, who appointed as arbiter the silversmith Francisco Merino, who, with the aid of a sculptor from Talavera de la Reina, Benito de Ureta, brought the figure up to 25,000 reales in August. In view of the situation, El Greco agreed to be paid--"on account of my devotion to it [the said hospital] and love for the said administrator"--only the extremely large sum of 16,000 reales; so far the artist had received 13,800 reales from the Hospital Tavera, and settled for a further 2,200 reales. However, this "favour" granted to his "beloved" Don Pedro Salazar, which was perhaps less selfless than might be thought, was not endorsed by Domenikos until 30 December, more than four months after the appraisal in his favour, which he renounced as he did not wish to "take advantage of it". It seems simply that by refusing the over 800 ducats to which he was legally entitled, he was doing a favour in order to avoid a delay in payment in the event of a lawsuit.

The tabernacle [] consisted not only of the architectural structure of which part still remains in the chapel but also included five sculpted figures--a risen Christ and the four doctors of the Church (Saints Jerome, Gregory, Ambrose and Augustine) and twelve figures in imitation marble representing the apostles, which were to be placed in the small niches but were never delivered by the artist. The "Christ of the Resurrection" did not top the dome of the tabernacle but rose above the monstrance, and appeared to be suspended above the model of the tomb. The work as a whole, with its Michelangelesque architecture--based on St Peter's in Rome--and sculpture displayed very modern features that are evident both in the dynamism afforded by its lack of unity, the interplay of interior light and the ultimately scenographic interrelationship between architecture and sculpture. The appraiser Navarro rightly pointed out as the most praiseworthy feature of the piece "the work of producing the designs and ground plans and the mastery,  most highly esteemed, to which the said Domenikos devoted much effort and care", which is another way of describing what can be summed up as a global invention.

Furthermore, the risen Christ --whose flesh is painted in very pale shades, almost white, except for his black hair--is rendered completely naked, contradicting the Counter-Reformation ideas of decorum and appropriateness and leaning forward towards the viewer in a pose of serene divinity, an example of simplicity of line and a handsome model of weightlessness and balance that the theme required.

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Fernando Marías