Assumption of the Virgin, 1577 by El Greco

This Assumption belongs to an ensemble of eight canvases painted by El Greco for the high altar of the newly rebuilt conventional Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The picture is dated 1577; this is a rare and happy circumstance, for it fixes the date of El Greco's establishment in Toledo. The architecture and decorative carvings of the retable were executed by Juan Bautista Monegro, the sculptor, after Greco's sketches.

Confronted by the mature craftsmanship - in design, modeling, coloring - which is displayed in this earliest known work of Greco's Spanish period, we are faced with the persistent question: What previous steps in his artistic development could have led the Byzantine to such a mastery of his craft?

The Assumption shows undeniable traces of Italian influences. But the subject, treated so dramatically by Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, is given here a very unusual character of quietness, of silence, one would say.

Quiet is the Madonna's ascension; quiet the witnessing of the miracle by the Apostles. Already there appears in this picture one of the main themes of Greco's future art: the theme of witnessing, the sharing of, and testifying to, a vision. The Apostles do not show us - the spectators their astonishment or ecstasy. They attest, they explain to each other the meaning of the miracle and of their witnessing of it.