"Crucifixion" by El Greco
Visitors to the Kimbell had the extraordinary opportunity to view a rare painting on copper of Christ on the cross by the Spanish master El Greco. The painting came from the collection of Mr. Fayez Sarofim of Houston, who generously placed it on loan at the Kimbell through late November 2010 as part of the Museum’s continuing “Guest of Honor” series.
The painting is small in scale yet powerful in conception. Christ’s limp body hangs from the cross while a mass of dark clouds billows up from the horizon. Adding to the drama of the sky is a bolt of lightning that cuts across the top of the composition and passes directly behind Christ’s head. Beneath him spreads a desolate landscape enlivened only by the ghostly silhouette of a hilltop town and a stand of trees. The copper support plays a role in the evocation of light emanating from within the scene: its shiny surface acts like a mirror, reflecting light back through the paint.
The Sarofim Crucifixion is generally dated around 1570, while El Greco was still living and working in Venice or shortly after his move to Rome at the end of that year. It was during his two-year stay in Venice that he discovered the dramatic palette that would become a defining feature of his art. The Sarofim Crucifixion shows a Venetian approach to color, and Venice may well have been where he decided to try his hand at painting on copper.
Visitors had the opportunity to view the Sarofim Crucifixion near one of El Greco’s later masterpieces from Toledo, the Portrait of Dr. Francisco de Pisa, in the Kimbell’s permanent collection. Admission is always free to view the Museum’s permanent collection.
Caption: El Greco, Crucifixion (detail), c. 1570, oil on canvas. Fayez Sarofim Collection, Houston