2 June – 19 September 1999
The project which inspired this great exhibition was designed to enable people to get to know El Greco in the places where he worked and was the result of an important cultural exchange and close collaboration between Italy, Spain and Greece. The Palazzo delle Esposizioni hosted the second stage of the exhibition, after the Thyssen–Bornemisza museum in Madrid, and before the National Art Gallery in Athens; it was the first exhibition to be devoted exclusively to El Greco (Candia 1541 – Toledo 1614), presenting his entire artistic journey, from its beginnings around 1560 until the year of his death.
The exhibition itinerary started with a group of works by artists who were active in Crete during El Greco’s youth, and who had a significant influence on the apprentice artist: Michail Damaskinos, Georgios Klontzas, Emmanuel Lambardos, and others.
The chronological development of the exhibition which followed, allowed visitors to probe to the bottom of El Greco’s artistic identity: the late Byzantine legacy (as in the painting of Saint Luke Painting the Virgin and Child in the Benaki Museum in Athens), his assimilation of the renaissance languages of art, especially during his stay in Italy, in Venice and Rome (as in the Modena Triptych in the Galleria Estense in Modena, the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Willumsens Museum in Frederikssund, Christ driving the traders from the Temple in the National Gallery in Washington, and Christ healing the blind man in the Galleria Nazionale in Parma). These and other paintings on display in the exhibition testified to his place in the field of European culture right from the start, and to the influence which the great Italian masters had on him.
The paintings El Greco produced in Spain, where he moved in 1577, show the profound evolution of his work, both in his religious paintings, in the great altarpieces, and in his portraits. The immaculate conception contemplated by Saint John, from the Church of Santa Leocadia in Toledo, the various representations of the Saints in meditation, The Holy Family with Saint Anna and the Infant John the Baptist, The Agony in the Garden in the National Gallery, London, and Christ crucified from the Zuloaga collection, The Annunciation in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid, and The Adoration of the Shepherds from the Museo del Patriarca in Valencia, are some of the works that show El Greco’s fine quality and strong artistic individuality.
Placing paintings with the same subject side by side, for example the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Mary Magdalene in Penitence, enabled visitors to perceive the development in El Greco’s art, from the first Italian period until the last years of his long period in Toledo.
Exhibition curated by Josè Álvarez Lopera, with Maria del Mar Borobia, Nicos Hadjinicolau and Claudia Terenzi.
Catalogue edited by Josè Álvarez Lopera, with essays by the curator and by Nicos Hadjinicolaou, Maria Costantoudaki-Kitromilides, Lionello Puppi, Claudio Strinati, Maurizio Marini, Josè Manuel Pita Andrade, Fernando Marìas, David Davies, and catalogue descriptions by the curator and Maria del Mar Borobia, Maria Costantoudaki-Kitromilides, Nicos Hadjinicolau, Georgios Mastoròpoulos, and José Manuel Pita Andrade, published by Skira Editore, Milan 1999.