National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Martin and the Beggar El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)
El Greco (painter)
Greek, 1541 - 1614
Saint Martin and the Beggar, 1597/1599
oil on canvas
overall: 193.5 x 103 cm (76 3/16 x 40 9/16 in.) framed: 215.3 x 135.9 x 12.7 cm (84 3/4 x 53 1/2 x 5 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.25
Not on View
From the Tour: El Greco
Object 3 of 8

Conservation Notes

In structure and condition the painting is almost identical to its companion piece, Madonna and Child with Saint Martina and Saint Agnes (1942.9.26). The support is a single piece of linen with an unusual diamond-weave pattern. The tacking edges have been removed, but the original format was retained. The wooden strip attached to the bottom is a later addition. The gypsum ground and the two layers of reddish-brown imprimatura above it do not hide the weave texture. El Greco left the imprimatura exposed in several places: notably, to outline the head and shoulders of the beggar and the upraised leg of the horse.

Analysis of several cross sections by the NGA science and conservation departments reveals a complex layering of colors above the gesso and imprimatura. The artist utilized a variety of techniques, from wet-on-wet to scumbling. Impasto was used for Martin's collar and cuffs. X-radiographs reveal that the raised index finger of the saint's left hand originally was painted lower and that the neckstrap of the horse was placed higher. There are no major losses, except in the area of a one and one-half inch wide tear, located six inches from the bottom edge and twenty inches from the left edge. The painting was taken off a panel stretcher in 1942 and relined.[1]


[1] The technical notes are based on Susanna Pauli, "Two Paintings by El Greco: Saint Martin and the Beggar. Analysis and Comparison" (forthcoming publication, conservation department papers, National Gallery of Art). I am grateful to her for allowing me to discuss some of her findings here.

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