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Audio Stop 412

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Seeming close to us, at least five people, all nude with light skin, stand or lay intertwined with snakes on a bank of rocks in this horizonal painting. Beyond them, the deep, distant landscape has a brown horse, tiny in scale, headed for a city of stone buildings beneath a vivid blue sky filled with twisting white clouds. The people’s bodies are sinewy and elongated, and their skin is painted in tones of ivory white, warmed with peach highlights and streaked with deep gray shadows. At the center, a man with a white beard and white, curly hair lies back on the charcoal-gray rock with his knees bent and his shins splayed out. With his body angled away from us to our right, he holds the body of a long, silvery-gray snake in his left fist, on our right, down by his hip. The snake curves behind the man’s body and he grips the snake behind its head. The man has high cheekbones and sunken cheeks, and rolls his eyes up and back to look at the snake, whose wide-open mouth nearly touches his hair. To our left, a cleanshaven young man stands with his body facing us but he arches back, holding an arcing snake in his hands. The young man’s right hand, on our left, bends at the elbow so he can grasp the snake’s tail and his other arm stretches straight back, holding the snake’s body as it curls around so its fangs nearly reach the young man’s side. To our right, next to the older man, a second, dark-haired young man lies on the rocks with his head towards us. His feet are on the ground, so we look onto the tops of his thighs. He lies with one hand resting on the ground, overhead. Three people seem to float, feet dangling, alongside the right edge of the painting. The person closest to us looks onto the writhing people in profile, back to us. A second person just beyond also looks to our left. A third head turns the opposite direction and looks off to our right. In the distance, the golden-brown horse is angled away from us, one front leg raised, on a path that moves from behind the rocky outcropping to the far-off town. Nestled in a shallow valley, buildings in the town are mostly painted with rose pink and red walls and smoke-gray roofs. The land dips to a deeper, green valley to our right, lining the horizon that comes two-thirds of the way up the composition. The standing people are outlined against the sapphire-blue sky and knotted, gray and white clouds.

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos)

Laocoön, c. 1610/1614

West Building, Main Floor - Gallery 28

West Building Verbal Descriptions