El Greco's "View of Toledo"

Essay by stephalicious8 January 2003

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View of Toledo

This piece, an oil on canvas painted in 1541 by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulous) evokes strong emotions. It shows a storm overhead, with very little light breaking through the clouds. However, the city below is illuminated. In the top right corner, there is an urbanized city, with a Gothic cathedral. In the bottom left corner, there is a scene of daily life, people working at a river. These people are barely more that stick figures, however, the painting seems to be very detailed. The storm above, however, gives the piece a very eerie, supernatural, spiritual mood.

The light on the city seems to be very eerie, supernatural and spiritual. It is very dark, however, bits and pieces of light shine through clouds. The painting seems to be very supernatural, in the sense that bizarre events where clouds and light and the world behave this way are rare.

It seems spiritual as well, as though only tiny bits of God's light are shining through thick, dark clouds. The whole piece is lit in a very odd manner.

The people who are at the river don't seem to notice or mind the crazy weather or lighting, they're more focused on daily tasks. The trees, buildings, palaces and cathedrals are very detailed. The Cathedral, which is Gothic, especially demands attention. It seems to be at the center of all of these supernatural happenings. In addition, El Greco changed its location, because normally it is on the other side of the palace. This was, perhaps to highlight it, and show the piece's spiritual importance. Also, the stylized landscape is very dramatically different from the realistic depictions of nature at the time, even in the romantic genre of the pastoral. Perhaps this painting with its almost psychedelic hues, purples and greens,