St. John the Evangelist (1579; Toledo, Spain) by El Greco

St. John the Evangelist - El Greco - 1579; Toledo, Spain

Artwork Information

TitleSt. John the Evangelist
ArtistEl Greco
Date1579; Toledo, Spain
Dimensions212 x 78 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationToledo Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

About St. John the Evangelist

“St. John the Evangelist” is an oil on canvas painting by El Greco, completed in 1579 during the artist’s time in Toledo, Spain. As a prominent example of the Mannerist style from the Late Renaissance, the artwork measures 212 by 78 centimeters. It is a religious painting that belongs to the collection of the Toledo Cathedral, located in Toledo, Spain.

The painting depicts St. John the Evangelist, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, known for his authorship of the Fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. El Greco portrays him immersed in contemplation or reading, with his gaze focused on a book he holds. St. John is distinguished by an aged appearance with a thoughtful expression, and his right hand is raised close to his mouth, as if he’s deeply engrossed in his reading or in thought.

A key characteristic of this work is El Greco’s dramatic treatment of form and color, evident in the stark contrasts and the elongated figure of St. John, which is typical of the Mannerist tendency to distort proportion for expressive effect. The saint is adorned with a vibrantly red cloak draped over his shoulder, which stands out against the muted background and the deep blue of his garment underneath, highlighting El Greco’s skillful use of color and his ability to convey texture and movement in fabric. The dark setting enhances the saint’s introspective mood and isolates him from any earthly context, suggesting a spiritual or divine focus.

El Greco’s St. John the Evangelist is a quintessential example of the emotional intensity and complexity that is associated with Mannerism, and it reflects the artist’s unique approach to religious figures, imbuing them with a sense of inner life and psychological depth.

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