Burial of Count Orgaz

(1586; Toledo, Church of Santo Tomé)
   Created by El Greco, the Burial of Count Orgáz was commissioned by Andrés Nuñez, the parish priest of Santo Tomé. It depicts a miracle that unfolded during the count's burial in 1323. He was the benefactor of the church and of the nearby Augustinian Monastery of San Esteban (St. Stephen) and, to thank him for his generosity, Sts. Augustine and Stephen supposedly descended from heaven to bury him. In the painting, the gentlemen of Toledo are in the process of lowering the body into the tomb, which is appropriately located directly beneath the painting. Above, the Virgin and Christ await the count's soul, depicted as a child being carried up to heaven by an angel, a mode of representation borrowed from 16th-century devotional prints. To separate the earthly from the heavenly, El Greco elongated and abstracted the divine figures and deepened his palette to render this upper section of the painting. The work's message of attainment of salvation through charity and good deeds in life was a concept stressed by the Counter-Reformation Church whose doctrines were closely followed by the clergy of Toledo, then the most important center of Catholicism, after Rome.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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