El Greco

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The Agony In the Garden, a mannerist style of art by EL Greco, proclaims a sense of spiritual power of religious faith which accomplishes El Greco’s aim to move his audience. El Greco was born on the island of Crete and lived from 1541 to 1614. He represented the most characteristic figure of Spanish Mannerism. El Greco was influenced by and became acquainted with the art of Titian and Jacopo Bassano in Venice where he studied in 1566. In addition to visiting Italy, El Greco made his way to Rome, Parma and probably Florence. On his travels he became more familiar with the work of Parmigianino and the work of Correggio. In El Greco’s use of form can be seen Florentine Mannerism. Venetian Mannerism can be seen in the peculiar brilliance of his coloring. The plans for the construction of the Escurial and the discussion of works of art being selected by Philip II, probably attracted El Greco to Spain. However, El Greco failed to satisfy the Italianate tastes of the King. He lived virtually uninterruptedly in Toledo from 1575 on. In Toledo he formed friendships with men of advanced beliefs and humanist interests. The monastic, from which his prime commitment came, were glad to decorate their churches and cloisters with his elevated visionary paintings. El Greco paintings bordered on a supernatural world of creative fantasy. Most of his paintings survive in a number of copies painted in his own hand. El Greco’s studio which employed a large number of assistants also produced many contrasts of his works. People were very curious about his paintings with their unusual setting and flickering impressiveness. In The Agony In The Garden there are two planes displayed in the art work that are disconnected by a few bare branches that contain fugitive leaves. The upper plane consists of the vision of Christ set against a large rock with a few trees. Christ is kneeling in a reddish-purple robe, with hands stretched out toward the ground. He turns toward the floating angel who is painted in pearly greys. Behind the angel, on the left are spinning clouds. Preceding from an outline of an imaginary town, on the right, are soldiers carrying flags. The inconceivable impression of the picture is due to the contrast of not only passionate and cerebral but in terms of colour- between the two planes and their figural content as well. This painting is the last date of the El Greco pictures in Budapest and is from the last period of the artists life. The Biblical occurrence illustrated is standardized on two levels, one above the other. The group of the three sleeping apostles fill the lower plane. We find comparable groups of apostles in pictures by Giovanni Bellini. El Greco returns to Quattrocento etiquette, especially in the manner in which the sleeping gray-haired apostle bends his arm around his head. Of the abundant versions of this painting in the artist’s own hand there is a smaller copy in the Museum at Lille, and other variants are to be found in the Episcopal palace in the Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires. The variant most similarly related to the painting in Budapest is the larger-scale version in the Church of Santa Maria at Andujar which displays other works of mannerist art. The mannerist style thrived at the same time as High Renaissance and Baroque art. Mannerism, like many other names attached to so many other periods of art, was a name conceived in disdain and impudence. Maniera, meaning maner, was correlated with the artist who worked in the manner of someone else. Like an imitator who adapted and sometimes perfected the forms of another. However, there are characteristics of the Mannerist style which disconnected it from the period of the High Renaissance as well as the distinguishing it from the emerging Baroque. A number of crucial artist of Mannerism have displayed meaningful works. Only in the last ninety years has Mannerism come to be respected as an independent style in the history of art. Before representatives of the style were classified under either the Renaissance or the Baroque. Some of the most excellent Mannerist were banned from the gallery walls and the church altars. However, they produced works of great emotional impact. Probably the findings of El Greco early in this century provided for the re-judgment of Mannerism as a style in its own right. Mannerism became a style bleeding with imaginative content which had deliberately broken with reality, and often bordered beyond understanding and the irrational. Mannerism was thought of as “anticlassical” in that it broke the classic tradition- the tradition of Antiquity and the Renaissance. Mannerism surfaced in the first half of the sixteenth century in Florence and later throughout Italy who was desolate by the French and Spanish armies. In the full tide of the classic Renaissance a number of strange, restless works had come into existence. These new paintings first appeared in the field of religious composition. They no longer expressed the classic beauty and symmetry the reassurance of the Renaissance, which everyone could understand and cherish. Their aim was to be bright and determined on external effects. In many cases they were more reminiscent of the conjuring tricks of a magician than the work of art that soothes and delights. Paintings of the Mannerist style tended to express beauty that affected a fashion and in turn produced an impact with supernatural visions. In other cases, the painter seemed chiefly concerned with tricks of brawn and muscle. Mannerist artists enjoyed disagreement and paradox for their own sake in order to disconcert by the direct opposite itself. The difficulty of the subject-matter made the artist well aware that they were living in a world of tension. The interlacing conflicts expressed themselves in the spirit form of many works. A reason why the art of the Mannerist period was quicker to reflect the restless uncertain atmosphere of the time was because the uncertainties of the situation in Italy. The failure of ambitions to integrate city states into large unity did not lead to the development of bourgeois republics. It opened the way for common bankers to take over the control of the cities and the patronage of art. According to the tasteful explanations of the Patonic Academy in Florence, Mannerist paintings “should reflect the ideals of the artists, they should be intellectual mirror images of the arts rather than servile imitations of nature.” This standard was embraced by the first generation of Mannerists in Florence and Northern Italy. It ordained artistic method in Rome, Venice and Fontainbleu, and even more so in the Northern centers of art. It was due to this propose that the figures seem to lose with nature and man’s actual environment, and to take their place in the painting as if floating in some kind of unreal medium, inclined beside one another, but joined by an emotional or intellectual bond. El Greco’s sleeping apostles are creatures of loneliness, discovered in the shell of their dreams. There are several reasons for the relatively swift spreading of Mannerist style throughout cultivated Europe, and for its similarity, despite geographical distances and economic differences. Both the uniqueness of its style and its spreading were partly due to the peculiar popularity of the techniques of reproduction then available. Literary sources refer the prevalent diffusion of engravings of the work of Italian masters. Through the proficient genius of El Greco, who took a acute interest in the intellectual currents of his time the style spread as far as distant Spain. At the same time that Spanish and French invaders were in control of Italy, France, Spain, England and the German city states were fighting their own long-enduring wastes. The characteristics of Mannerism first made their appearance in the full during the period of the classical Renaissance. It began to spread and finally it prevailed. Similarly, in the second half of the sixteenth century, the Baroque style began to come forth and conquer. The judgment of the Council of Trent ran counter to the philosophy as well as the literature and art of the Renaissance. The decisions also disagreed with both the sprit of classical mythology and the conclusions of natural sciences. In fact they engage in active battle for absolutism in the rule of the Church and the temporal monarch. The churches of the Jesuit order considered the new standard in art. They did not advocate silent dedication, they were designed as mediums for the preacher and the religious propagandist. Making use of the documents and the characteristics of the Mannerists artists, the new style was a form of assertion which alarmed a sacred faith in the believer, giving him an active sense of partaking in the mysteries of religion. The solemn guaranty of the Renaissance portraits, the stiff and chill portraits of Mannerism were replaced by radiant allegorical representations of the

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