El Greco’s painting, “St. Francis and the Lay Brother” depicts the saint in a moment of intense devotion and pain surrounded by symbolic objects including a book and a skull. The painting is an early-seventeenth-century, reduced workshop replica of a larger devotional canvas also by El Greco, featuring St. Andrew and St. Francis. He portrayed St. Francis in an emotional state with his face full of feeling, emphasizing his piety and asceticism.
The absence of setting, the brilliance of the apparition, and elongation of the figure all contribute to an other-worldly effect that typifies Mannerism style Late Renaissance art. No background or context distracts from the religious importance and significance of this scene painted with great vividness.
El Greco’s original piece was commissioned for Alterpiece in Toledo Cathedral but no longer extant today; however, replicas like this one impart its legacy to viewers worldwide through their display in museums across Europe.
St. Francis And The Lay Brother continues to be treasured as one of El Greco’s best works today among art enthusiasts who appreciate its incredible detail workmanship combined with artistic skills that carefully portray Biblical characters with intricate details making it an exceptional piece worth experiencing firsthand.