More popularly known as El Greco, Domenikos Theotokopoulos was a Greek artist who is highly appreciated for his outstanding Christian art. He is regarded by many as the key influence in Expressionism, his dramatic style of painting reflects not just his expertise but also his immense creativity and artistic skills. He rose to fame during the twentieth century as his paintings found true appreciation at the time. Greco was also a major figure in Spanish painting and a key contributor to Catholic Counter-Reformation Art.
Because of his style of painting, he was hailed as a painter who was undoubtedly years ahead of his time. Greco was a very unorthodox as a painter as he could think outside the box. He fought the artistic beliefs prevailing during the time and forged ahead with his own ideas and innovations. Of course, this wasn’t an easy thing for him and he faced a lot of resistance and comparisons with noted artists like Raphael, Titian, Michelangelo and so on. Things became easier for him in 1577 after he moved to Toledo, Spain as it was more peaceful there and the criticisms and oppositions to new ‘avant-garde’ ideas also began to die down.
Greco is most known for his religious paintings which comprised of elongated tortured looking figures. Greco’s intense spiritual style of religious art was much appreciated by people. His style of painting also matured over the years and it became more dramatic instead of descriptive. The figures which populated Greco’s paintings became paler, taller and longer than ever and one could also detect a certain violence in the application of paint during the time when he began experimenting with the early form of expressionism after moving away from High Renaissance.
The Holy Trinity is one of Greco’s most popular works apart from The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind (Year 1570), The Disrobing of Christ (Year 1577-1579), Assumption of the Virgin (Year 1577-1579) and so on. One of the most striking aspect of The Holy Trinity painting is Greco’s pictorial genius and the special care that went into the creation of this painting. The Holy Trinity basically consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Out of the three, Jesus is the only one who has a human body. In order to save mankind from sin, Lord Jesus (or the Son) sacrificed himself and is ascending to the Heaven.
In the painting, the dead body of Christ is seen in the arms of God (the Father) who is visibly broken and upset. A traditional Eastern Miter adorns the head of the Father. The dead weight of Jesus’ tortured and crucified body is captured perfectly as the elongated figure of Christ’ body is laid at an awkward angle. There is a dove overhead, which many interprets as the symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit. The painting is also populated by six grieving angels surrounding the scene in a ‘V’ formation and cherubims at Christ’s feet. The use of diverse colours in the robes emphasizes the contrasting range of the colour palette selected by Greco for this painting.
In fact, experts and art connoisseurs described the painting as a glory of the heavens due to the brilliant golden yellow sun shining overhead, sending its radiance over the scene; what’s more, the illumination seems to break through the clouds! The message of the painting, i.e. the ascension of Christ and the Holy Trinity is immediately conveyed to the observer the moment he/she lays an eye on the painting. The entire painting is that of a scene of exaltation and glorification, a concept which is so delicately and skilfully epitomised here.
What’s unique about The Holy Trinity painting is that Greco never painted another picture of this theme/subject again, therefore this is a one-of-a-kind painting of Greco’s. The painting, in short, depicts the journey or assumption of Lord Jesus Christ into heaven after his perilous time on Earth ends. The way in which colours are used brilliantly in this painting also tells a story; that is, Greco used darker colours at the bottom of the painting, thus signifying the grim mortal realm. In contrast to this, there is the bright yellow sky on the top, which represents heaven with its everlasting radiance, peace and joy.
Currently housed at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid (Spain), The Holy Trinity is the painting that secured Greco a good hold in the world of artists and painters. After all, the painting gained an overwhelming amount of positive response and appreciation from the people of Toledo and also created a turning point in Greco’s career as an artist.