Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Greek from Toledo

Yesterday the Badische Zeitung (BZ) made Red Baron aware of another anniversary in 2014. One of my favorite painters El Greco (The Greek) was born 400 years ago on April 7.

Whenever you visit a picture gallery with old paintings those of El Greco immediately stick out fitting neither the Renaissance nor the Baroque styles of his epoch. The choice of colors (most important for El Greco), the form of his figures, and the composition of his pictures are far ahead of his time. Masters like Van Gogh, Marc, and Macke took up El Greco's audacity in painting but only 300 years later. Both Franz Marc and August Macke were killed on the Western front in the First World War.

Laocoön in the Vatican Museums (©Wikipedia)
Everybody has at least seen pictures of Laocoön and his sons. An ensemble sculptured in marble - now in Rome in the Vatican Museums - shows the scene where the previously blinded priest Laocoön and his two sons are killed by sea serpents. This is how goddess Athena made him double pay his warnings concerning the wooden horse the Greek had left behind when they lifted their siege of Troy. While Laocoön proposed to burn the horse the Trojans took it within the city walls with all the consequences we know from the movie.

Suffering without measure.
At the end of the article the BZ showed a copy of the picture of Laocoön and his sons painted by El Greco. The father fighting with a serpent knows that one of his sons lying at his side was already crushed to death. In agony he is turning his dead eyes into the direction of his second son who in vain fights the attack of a second serpent. The un-natural flesh tones of the bodies and the threatening clouds put the observer into a depressive mood. What makes the situation so hopeless are those indifferent bystanders. They are looking at the scene with bored interest but make no move to help Laocöon and his sons against the attack of the serpents. In the back you distinguish the city of Toledo, El Greco's home. Some experts interpret Laocoön's deadly fight as an allegory of the horrors of the inquisition being extremely active in Toledo at El Greco's time.

No comments:

Post a Comment