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Works by El Greco: in the National Gallery of Art collection

A young woman sitting with a nude infant lying in her lap is flanked on either side by an older woman to our left and an elderly man with a nude young boy to our right in this vertical painting. They all have pale skin tinged with blue. At the center, the young woman, Mary, is draped in a cobalt-blue mantle that partially covers her head and falls to her shoulders to wrap around a dusky rose-pink gown. The mantle is pushed back from one side of her head, revealing dark brown hair. Her right arm embraces the shoulders of the old woman standing next to her, to our left, who leans toward Mary. A tangerine-orange cloak wraps around the older woman and her hair is covered by a white cowl. Both women have long faces and noses with deep set eyes under thick arched brows, and they gaze down at the infant. The mostly bald, pudgy baby lies across a white piece of fabric, two corners of which are held up by the older woman. Another young boy stands alongside Mary to our right. He faces us, holding a basket or glass bowl containing oval-shaped caramel-brown objects the size of figs in one hand. His elongated head is crowned with tawny brown hair, and his face turns away from the infant to gaze off to our right. One finger of his left hand, on our right, rests alongside his rose-red lips. The elderly man stands behind him, leaning over Mary’s shoulder to look at the older woman. We see him from the waist up with a golden-yellow cloak layered over an olive-green vest, and the arm we see is clad in a white sleeve. The group takes up most of the height of the composition and are crowded together against an azure-blue sky swirling with thin gray and white clouds. The scene is painted largely with long strokes of saturated color. The dark gray ground below is painted with sketchy strokes of white, blue, and pink.
El Greco, The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist, c. 1595/1600, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1959.9.4
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A woman and the baby she holds float in a cloud flanked by two winged angels, as two women stand below in this tall, vertical painting. All the people have pale skin shaded with smoke gray, and their necks, fingers, and limbs are elongated. At the top center of the painting Mary holds Jesus on her lap. Jesus is nude except for a white cloth wrapped around his middle. His body faces us as he looks off to our left. He has blond, curly hair and the pudgy features of a baby. He grasps the forefinger of Mary’s right hand, to our left, and his other hand rests by his side. Mary looks down at the baby with her head tilted to our right. One hand reaches around Jesus’s torso and the other arm is lifted, so he can hold her finger. She wears a white veil draped over chestnut-brown hair and a sapphire-blue cloak over a voluminous, rose-pink dress. A winged angel looks on to each side of this pair. Both angels have blond hair and delicate features. The angel to our left wears a parakeet-green robe and has ice-blue wings. That angel crosses arms over the chest, as the angel to our right holds hands together in prayer. The second angel wears shell white and has silvery-gray wings. Both are seen from the chest up from behind puffy, pale blue clouds. Above the angels, rows of ghostly winged baby heads are loosely painted with tones of ivory white and slate gray. They frame a golden glow that surrounds Mary’s head. At Mary’s feet are five more winged baby heads. In the bottom third of the painting, two women stand with their bodies facing inward, toward each other. They both have honey-brown hair, snub noses, and pointed chins. The woman to our left looks up at Mary with large, glistening eyes, her pale pink lips parted. She wears a canary-yellow robe over a topaz-blue, long-sleeved garment. One hand curves over the head of a lion standing in front of her, holding one end of a long palm frond that rests on her right shoulder, closer to us. Two curling lines on the lion’s forehead are the cursive Greek letters for Delta and Theta, which are the artist’s initials. The woman to our right looks down so we see her in profile. A gossamer-white veil covers her hair and drapes across her chest. She is enveloped in a shimmering, flame-red cloak. A white lamb lies across the woman’s left forearm, closer to us, and the woman holds her other hand up to her chest.
El Greco, Madonna and Child with Saint Martina and Saint Agnes, 1597/1599, oil on canvas, wooden strip added at bottom, Widener Collection, 1942.9.26
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An armored man on horseback hands a piece of emerald-green cloth down to the nearly nude man standing next to him in this slightly stylized, vertical painting. Both men have light skin, and they, along with the horse, nearly fill the composition. To our right, the bright white horse stands angled to our right with the front left hoof raised. It has a smoke-gray mane, and wears a black bridle. The man riding the horse has short, copper-blond hair and a long face with a pointed chin. He looks down at the ground with dark eyes under black, arched brows. He has a long, thin nose, and his small lips are closed and framed by the faint suggestion of a mustache. He wears a white ruff pleated into figure-eights over his high-necked armor, which is liberally outlined and decorated with gold against the pewter-colored plates. He grips the voluminous, green cape in one hand and holds a sword in the other, down by the leg we can see. The cleanshaven man next to him, to our left, looks off to our right in profile. He has close-cropped, dark hair and smooth skin. His lips are parted, and he tips his head slightly away from us. He holds the green cloth with the hand closer to the horse and gestures down with his other pointer finger, in front of his hip. A white cloth bandage is wrapped around one shin, and he rests his weight on the other leg. The horse and man stand on a curving spit of brown earth. A spring-green landscape dips down behind them, running low near the bottom edge of the painting. The horizon comes about a quarter of the way up the composition, and fog-gray and white clouds create thin screens across the topaz-blue sky. The loose brushstrokes are visible in some areas, especially in the landscape and clothing. The artist signed his name in Greek near the lower right corner.
El Greco, Saint Martin and the Beggar, 1597/1599, oil on canvas, Widener Collection, 1942.9.25
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A light-skinned man wearing a voluminous, ocean-blue, hooded robe sits at a cloth-draped writing table and looks up, fingers splayed over an open book and a pen held in his other hand, in this vertical painting. The man and desk take up most of the composition, which has an arched top. The man’s shoulders and body are angled to our right, and he looks off in that direction in profile. His balding head is rimmed with white hair curving over the large ear we can see, and he has a trimmed white and gray beard and mustache. His prominent nose is pointed, and his lips are closed. Light glints off the robe he wears so it shimmers in shades of topaz, aquamarine, and midnight blue. Voluminous white sleeves emerge under the mantle and are edged with narrow lace cuffs. His left hand, to our right, rests on an open book, which is propped against one or two other tomes. Near the edge of the table, two quills stand in the corners of a lidded inkwell, and a round, silver blotter, shaped like an upside-down chalice, and a lidded silver box sit nearby. The man’s chair has a tall post next to his shoulder to our left with a teardrop-shaped, gold finial. A second post, near his wrist, is lower and topped with a gold orb. The chair is draped in the same deep, raspberry-pink of the square table at which he sits. The tablecloth is edged with a wide band of gold along the bottom, and filigree-like gold decorations line the seams or folds at the corners. Brushstrokes are visible in many areas, especially in the colorfully charged blue and pink fabric. Beyond the man, to our right, a statuette of a person wearing a long, white robe over a white dress holds a baby. The clothing is edged with gold, and she wears a sphere-like gold crown. The baby also wears white and holds up one hand. The statuette stands on a platform supported by S-shaped corbels, and could have a projecting, squared awning over the top. This area is more loosely painted so some details are difficult to make out. In the background to our left, a wooden door stands open next to a dark space just behind the man’s head, so his profile is picked out against the shadow. The floor beneath is earth brown.
El Greco, Saint Ildefonso, c. 1603/1614, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection, 1937.1.83
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A nude man holding a book in one hand and a rock down by his other side kneels at the opening of a rocky cave in this vertical painting. The man’s body and the shadowy cave opening nearly fill the composition. The man’s torso and limbs are elongated and sinewy, and his skin is painted in tones of ivory white and pale peach with smoky gray shadows. His body is squared to us as he turns his long face to look up and off to our left. He has dark brows over deep-set eyes, a prominent nose, hollow cheeks, and his thin lips are closed. He has short white hair and a frost-white beard. His skin pulls tightly over the tendons in his neck, across his collarbone, and over his ladder-like ribcage. He is nude except for a loosely painted, light-colored cloth across his hips. His left arm, to our right, lies along an open book, which rests against his hip or on a rock in the cave. A few touches of red line the hand that grips the rock, which he holds away from his body with his other hand. The craggy face of the cave opening is loosely painted, and the interior is swallowed in complete darkness. The man raises his face toward rays of canary yellow and cotton white against a turquoise-blue sky in the upper left corner of the canvas.
El Greco, Saint Jerome, c. 1610/1614, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1943.7.6
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