Monday, December 21, 2009

Holy Family

Title: Holy Family

Artist: El Greco

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 106 x 87 cm

Date: 1585

Location: The Hispanic Society of America, New York.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord they represented the Holy Family.

Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Mgr Fran├žois de Laval (30 April 1623 – 6 May 1708), the first Roman Catholic bishop of New France and one of the most influential men of his day. The feast of the Holy Family was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1893, and is now observed the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas, that is between Christmas and New Year's Day, or when there is no Sunday within the Octave (if both Christmas Day and New Year's Day are Sundays), it is held on 30 December, a Friday in such years.

It was only after El Greco moved to Spain that he treated the theme of the Madonna and Child in both half-length and full-length format, however, he invariably included St Joseph, in keeping with the new prominence the saint was given in Counter-Reformation theology. The painting of the Hispanic Society of America is one of El Greco's finest paintings and his earliest treatment of the theme. It served as the point of departure for a larger canvas in the Hospital of St John the Baptist in Toledo (Tavera Hospital), in which the composition was enriched by the inclusion of St Anne to the left of the Virgin.

El Greco (1541, Candia - 1614, Toledo) was a Cretan-born painter, sculptor, and architect who settled in Spain, and is regarded as the first great genius of the Spanish School. He was known as El Greco (the Greek), but his real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos. His workshop turned out a great many replicas of his paintings, but his work was so personal that his influence was slight, his only followers of note being his son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos and Luis Tristan. Interest in his art revived at the end of the 19th century and with the development of Expressionism in the 20th century he came into his own. The strangeness of his art has inspired various theories, for example that he was mad or suffered from astigmatism, but his rapturous paintings make complete sense as an expression of the religious fervor of his adopted country.

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