Paintings In Toledo, Spain

Scattered through a dozen churches, in this ancient town of dwindled population, are some of the greatest works of EL GRECO. Some are well preserved and easily accessible, like the Burial of the Count of Orgaz in the Church of Santo Tome. This example of the second period is interesting in that it combines his realistic and fantastic styles in the same picture; one below, in a group of living men, and one above, to represent angels and deities—a contrast similar to that in Tintoretto’s Last Supper. Many of the finest works are not in the Greco Museum or in the Cathedral, but must be sought in small, unused churches in side streets, where some are fast mouldering away. The latest and most fully characteristic are the Assumption (Church of San Vicente), St. Francis (Hospital of Tavera), Annunciation (Church of San Nicolas) and Adoration of the Shepherds (Santo Domingo el Antiguo).

The first of these, the Assumption, carries his distinctive tendencies to their fullest realization in all his work. A small cloud of flowers at the bottom is the only realistic material left, and even such delicate substance falls solidly and heavily by contrast with the ethereal forms of the Virgin and angels. The last factor to make for stable firmness—the regular, symmetrical basic design noted in the Pentecost — is itself melted in the flames, dissolved and swept upward in the rising, fluttering stream of fiery vapors. Almost the last vestige of realism in bodily proportions is gone. Far more than in the Pentecost, these figures are dehumanized by tremendous elongations, which seem to give them super-natural size, and at the same time carry up the whole group’s movement in great soaring, swerving flights, one above another. In between are finer tresses of crumpled, iridescent drapery, and twisted small angelic figures, all flaring and flickering upward like wisps of burning vapor blown by a whirlwind, to circle at the top in a vortex of luminous clouds. The colors aid this movement vigorously. A greenish yellow, in the lowest angel’s dress, is most opaque and nearest to the landscape colors below. Rising, the figures gleam in crimson and lemon-yellow against a sky of dull gray blues and greens.


This grim, enormous tomb of dead kings and queens contains a small art gallery: the Capitulary Rooms. In it is one of EL GRECO’S most brilliantly colorful works, a San Mauricio of lurid blue-greens, yellow, purple and rose (second period). Near a second-rate VELAZQUEZ, there is an unusually vigorous ROGER VAN DER WEYDEN Deposition. Scattered in various rooms through the building are several characteristic works of BOSCH.