El Greco’s “Pietà” is a moving depiction of the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. Created between 1587-1597, this religious painting showcases El Greco’s unique style that focused on elongated figures and atmospheric lighting. The subject of the Pietà was incredibly popular among Renaissance artists with its tragic aura of love and grief.
Notably, El Greco produced this version of the Pietà shortly after his arrival in Rome and under clear influence from Michelangelo. The Niarchos Pietà, as it is known, is a masterpiece that reflects immense spirituality and emotion typical of Toledan clients. Notable features include Mary’s sorrowful gaze that peers out from a slightly distorted face. Additionally, John the Apostle appears beside Mary to enhance her isolation while emphasizing her grief.
El Greco displays exceptional use of color in this artwork with his characteristic flamboyant palette including unnatural colors and utilization of complementary colors. Indeed, he diverges significantly from Michelangelo who had created an earlier version still regarded as one of the greatest works in Christian art history. Despite differences, El Greco’s “Pietà” remains an exceptional artwork showcasing technical skillful execution both in application and symbolism for which he is celebrated.