National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Christ Cleansing the Temple El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)
El Greco (painter)
Greek, 1541 - 1614
Christ Cleansing the Temple, probably before 1570
oil on panel
overall: 65.4 x 83.2 cm (25 3/4 x 32 3/4 in.) framed: 87.6 x 106.7 x 7.6 cm (34 1/2 x 42 x 3 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1957.14.4
On View
From the Tour: El Greco
Object 1 of 8

Conservation Notes

The support is a single piece of poplar with horizontally oriented grain. It has a modern wooden cradle. A white ground of variable thickness was applied overall somewhat roughly. Most commentators have supposed that El Greco executed this painting in tempera.[1] However, close visual examination suggests that the primary medium is oil due to the nature of the paint, its consistency, and the presence of numerous passages of resinous transparent glazes. Short, choppy strokes predominate throughout. Underdrawing for the architectural elements is partially visible through the paint film. Some of the outlines of the background architecture were incised in the white ground. The painting is in stable condition. The left edge of the panel is cut unevenly, and the adjacent composition looks chopped, suggesting that the composition has been cut down along the left edge and possibly the top edge as well. The ground and paint layers are damaged along the left edge, and there are additional small scattered areas of loss observed throughout. The blues and reds of the painting have lost their tonal balance. In contrast to the bright, stark blue drapery, the red drapery appears drab and washed out; the red pigment may have faded. The varnish is in fair condition; it is abraded along the left edge and penetrated by fine vertical fractures throughout.


[1] Willumsen 1927, 2: 275-281, seems to be the earliest source to claim that El Greco used tempera. This was also asserted by Camón Aznar 1950, 2: 1361, no. 82; Trapier 1958, 85; Wethey 1962, 2: 68, no. 104; Manzini and Frati 1972, no. 10a; Davies 1976, note to pl. 2; William B. Jordan, in exh. cat. Toledo-Madrid-Washington-Dallas 1982-1983, 226, no. 2. Eisler 1977, 191, no. K2127, described the technique as mixed.

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