Masterpieces in History

called EL GRECO [notes]
(Greek/Spanish, 1541-1614)
View of Toledo
Oil on canvas
121 x 109 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

El Greco, View of Toledo

Toledo is a unique open-air museum of Spanish history. The eastern slope of this oriental-looking city is crowned by the Alcazar, the citadel. To the left the cathedral's tower rises up out of a sea of medieval houses. A wreath of Moorish Gothic fortifications encircles the city like a diadem, and at the foot of the impressive granite outcropping, the River Tagus cuts through a magnificent gorge.

Did El Greco, who settled in Toledo in 1577, wish to highlight the tragic side of his new home when he painted his View of Toledo (Storm over Toledo)? Born at Fodele on Crete, he went to Venice at the age of twenty-four to become a pupil of Titian. After long sojourns in Parma and Rome, El Greco moved to Toledo, a city that had lost its political importance. However, perhaps for this very reason it was able to focus on the role it had retained as the country's leading centre of Church activity. El Greco was a mystic and he may have found Toledo, where the opponents of the Reformation were more ardent than elsewhere, a bastion of the "true" belief, a place the painter saw as threatened by the very forces that were shaking the foundations of the old order.

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