See if you can spot the Count's soul being carried up to Heaven by an angel - only one figure in the painting has noticed.
Inside the Church of St. Tomé is a 1568 masterpiece by El Greco, Toledo’s most famous resident: The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is considered one of the artist’s finest works.
Enormous in scale, it is a striking composition depicting the popular local legend of the Count, who was responsible for the 14th century reconstruction of the church. At his funeral, St. Augustine and St. Stephen were believed to have miraculously descended from Heaven to bury him themselves.
The celestial and earthly portions of the painting are drawn together in a united composition, which forms a triangle up to the central figure of Jesus Christ. El Greco incorporated his own face into the astonished crowd, and painted his son as a young pageboy. The son points to the dead Count while also gesturing at his own handkerchief, which inscribed with his date of birth, creating a visual link between life and death. The painting’s lack of foreground, sky and horizon creates the illusion of supernatural space, with all action taking place on a frontal plane.
El Greco’s mastery of rich, radiant colour has been much remarked upon; the saints’ yellow and red robes are reflected in Orgaz’s ceremonial armour, and stand out against the black clothes of the gathered mourners. At its initial installation the painting was a popular attraction among locals for its realistic depiction of Toledan notaries, and today it remains a fascinating record of 16th century dress, as well as a testament to El Greco's genius.
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