Spain is the only European state to have emerged from a religious struggle between Christianity and Islam (Muslim rule over most of the Iberian peninsula lasted 718-1492). Not surprisingly therefore, the school of Spanish Painting produced a form of Christian art which was consistent with the country's uncompromising devotion to the Catholic cause. Its greatest exponent was Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco. After training in Byzantine icon painting he worked in Venice before making his home in Spain. Here he created a series of ecstatic portraits of Christ and the Saints, whose intensity of expression appealed directly to the spiritual feelings of the spectator. These powerful holy paintings, with their elongated figures, distorted perspective and non-natural colour schemes made El Greco the father of Counter-Reformation art in Spain. His most famous Catholic paintings include: The Trinity (1577-9); The Disrobing of Christ (1579); The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586); Christ driving the Traders from the Temple (1600); the Resurrection (1600), and The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse (1608). Although they had none of Caravaggio's naturalism, these pictures were spiritual masterpieces, and thus wholly in line with the doctrinal requirements of the Vatican.
Wall painting was substantially cheaper than mosaics and was therefore reserved for poorer churches. Later, however, as economic difficulties grew, it became a more widespread alternative. It was characterized by large-scale 'architectural' compositions - Byzantine muralists typically used an entire wall as their 'canvas' - typically filled with narrative detail without regard to principles of time and place. Famous extant Byzantine Christian murals include: those in the burial chamber (450-500) at Nicaea (Iznik); the Weeping Christ (1164, Church of St Panteleimon, Nerezi, Skopje, Macedonia); the Crucifixion (1209, Church of St Joachim and St Anna, Studenica, Serbia).
He made an altar of bronze, twenty cubits long and twenty cubits wide and ten cubits high. Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. Under it were figures of gourds, for ten cubits, compassing the sea all around. The gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east. The sea was set on them, and all their rear parts were inward. Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. ... Scripture Art
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