El Greco

Sts Peter and Paul

Sts Peter and Paul
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: El Greco
Painting, Oil on canvas, 121.5x105 cm
Origin: Spain, Between 1587 and 1592

With his energetic gesture, proudly held head and fiery eyes, Paul is clearly a man of conviction, decided in his opinions and beliefs. This inner fire seems to be reflected in the tense colour of his dark red cloak. Peter, on the other hand, is passive and gentle. His pose, the somewhat weak gesture of his hands, the tilted head and sad, incomprehending gaze - all speak of a tender nature. Before us are two striking but contrasting individuals.

Outwardly, however, they are not so different. El Greco emphasises the common elements in the faces of his heroes, their ascetic nature, and the two saints seem somehow reminiscent of figures on icons. The heavy folds of their cloaks do more to hide than to reveal the figures beneath and it seems as though earthly flesh is dissolving in a mass of fabric. Light slides across the figures and flickers in the colour, reinforcing the impression of unearthliness. The physical world would seem to be retreating in the face of the spiritual.

Personage: Apostles
Source of entry: gift of P. P. Durnovo, St Petersburg, 1911
School: Toledo
Theme: The Bible and Christianity
Exibition: Spanish Art: 15th - 19th centuries

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