El Greco’s Burial of Count” is a painting of the Burial of Count Orgaz by Domenikos Theotocopoulos, also known as El Greco. The painting is displayed in the vestibule of the church of Santo Tome in Toledo, Spain and was created in 1586 using oil on canvas. It was specifically made to fit the wall it currently hangs on, which has a round top. The artist used dark shades of blue and black, as well as yellow and red for important and detailed elements, while white was a common color used throughout the painting.
There was only one other color, sort of hidden in the robe of St. Augustine: green. He put a lot of detail into the things that he wanted the audience to pay attention to, such as the cross on the middle right, the keys to the gates of heaven held by Saint Peter on the top left, and a nice touch with the priest with the skull on his robe on the bottom right. This is the artist’s first completely personal work. There are no longer any references to Roman or Venetian formulas or motifs.
He has succeeded in eliminating any description of space. There is no ground, horizon, sky, or perspective. Accordingly, there is no conflict, and a convincing expression of supernatural space is achieved. The painting has a couple of oddities with the boy pointing to the seal on the St.
Stephen’s robe is in one hand, but his other hand is contorted. The faces of the people appear stuck here and there, lacking the natural flow of a crowd in the midst of a vision. We catch a glimpse of the artist above St. Augustine’s hat as he admires his own work. The boy in the painting turns out to be his son. The painting is clearly divided into two zones: the heavenly above and the terrestrial below, but there is little sense of duality.
The upper and lower zones are brought together compositionally, for example, by the standing figures and their varied participation in the earthly and heavenly event, as well as by the torches and cross. The grand circular mandorla-like pattern of the two Saints descending from Heaven echoes the pattern formed by the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist, and the action is given explicit expression. The point of equilibrium is the outstretched hand poised in the void between the two Saints, from which the mortal body descends, and the Soul, in the medieval form of a transparent and naked child, is taken up by the angel to be received in Heaven.
The supernatural appearance of the Saints is enhanced by the splendor of their gold vestments. The powerful emotion expressed by the group of participants is sustained through the composition by the splendor, variety, and vitality of color and light. The painting illustrates a popular local legend. In 1312, Don Gonzalo Ruiz, a native of Toledo and Señor of the town of Orgaz, died. He was a pious man who left money for the enlargement and adornment of the church of Santo Tome, El Greco’s parish church, among other charitable acts. At his burial, Saint Stephen and Saint Augustine intervened to lay him to rest.
The occasion for the commission of the painting for the chapel, in which the Señor was buried, was the resumption of the tribute payable to the church by the town of Orgaz, which had been withheld for over two centuries. All in all, it is a very interesting piece of art.