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Art for Meditation - June 2017

El Greco

Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as El Greco, (Heraklion, around 1541 – Toledo, 1614), The Holy trinity, 1577-79, oil on canvas, 300 x 170 cm, Madrid, Museo del Prado

The great painting by the Spanish painter is almost entirely occupied by the figures represented. There is no landscape, only the golden light on top, where the dove of the Holy Spirit is hovering around, and the low clouds on which the characters stand. In fact, the scene is entirely divine, it represents the Trinity.

This representation of the great mystery of the Christian faith is peculiar. We are particularly captured by the figures of the Father and the Son. The father, in fact, in a white tunic and a large orange cape, has his dead son in his arms; he has just descended from the cross on which he offered his life. The wounds caused by nails (left foot and left hand) and by the centurion’s spear are evident. The Father supports him, surrounded by the angels participating in his pain and giving intensity to the scene.

In the representation of the Father and the Son, the influence that Michelangelo must have had on the great Spanish painter is patent. In fact, there are several references to the various Pietà that the Florentine sculptor had carved some decades before.

The representation of the three persons of the Holy Trinity isn’t something new, but El Greco interpreted the mystery in a new way, closely linking the Father and the Son, united in one single figure.

We seem to hear echoing all the chapter 14 of the Gospel of John, especially the verses where Jesus tells Philip and all his disciples: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" (10) ... "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me" (11).


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.