The choir of the cathedral of Toledo looked so much like something out of Harry Potter that I had to sit down to recover. I’d decided to make a day trip to Toledo from Madrid largely to see the city that El Greco made his own. My first introduction to El Greco, decades back, came in the form of a large format book where each plate seemed to have a picture of Toledo in the background. Not only does Toledo loom large in El Greco’s paintings, I found that El Greco looms large in Toledo’ history.
The Cathedral of Toledo has a room full of paintings by El Greco. It is dominated by this painting of the disrobing of Christ before his crucifixion. The figures are the typically elongated ones that one expects in the middle and late period of El Greco’s paintings. It also has the wonderful colours of cloth that are such a signature of his style. There’s so much to see in the Cathedral of Toledo that I did not grudge the 10 Euro ticket. The free audio-guide that you get with it actually made the trip very much more enjoyable. I found that it nudged me to see much more than I would have seen otherwise. I spent a full two hours in the cathedral, perhaps twice as long as I would have without this wonderful guide.
On the other hand, I did feel a twinge when the Church of San Tome charged me nearly 3 Euros to see the single painting by El Greco that they have. Its the magnificent painting called the Burial of The Count of Orgaz. El Greco painted this for his parish church, and my final charitable thought was that this could be thought of as a bequest by the painter. I wish though that they let you photograph the painting. Since they don’t, and I took one photo before I was told, I converted it to monochrome before posting it. In the roughly twenty minutes that I spent here, the crowds tripled. The church does well from this bequest. Did you notice that there is exactly one woman in the painting?
Nearby is the Museo El Greco. It is housed in an old Jewish house which was mistakenly thought to be one which he lived in. Nevertheless, the museum is worth visiting, because if the wonderful collection of about twenty original El Grecos that you can get to see. One of my favourites is this commissioned altarpiece designed and painted by the Greek, called Saint Bernardine of Sienna. This is one of his last finished paintings. You can see the extreme elongation of the figure here. Also notice that Toledo is worked into the bottom of the painting.
I’ll end this post with a wonderful picture by El Greco of his city, Toledo. This alone would make the Museo El Greco worth visiting. Given the nearly twenty paintings by the master collected here, I would not mind paying as much as the entrance to the cathedral. The fact that entrance was free on Sunday was a bonus.