El Greco, a renowned artist during the Spanish Renaissance period of the 16th century, painted Laocoon, his only mythological work. The painting is based on the story of Laocoön from Virgil’s Aeneid in which he warns the Trojans against accepting the Trojan horse. However, the gods send sea-snakes to kill Laocoön and his sons as punishment for disobeying them.
Laocoon shows El Greco’s expertise in classical mythology and artistry through its depiction of this tragic event. The painting was completed in oil on canvas late in El Greco’s career when he mainly focused on religious images – making this unique within his body of work. It is currently displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
There is speculation that El Greco could have had specific motives for creating this piece, possibly related to controversies involving the Inquisition in Toledo at that time. Despite any political undertones it may hold, Laocoon remains an excellent example of El Greco’s skillful use of color and dramatic imagery throughout history.