Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hand-written Note Shows El Greco Defending Byzantine Style In Face Of Western Art

Date:
December 18, 2008
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
A new investigation could end many of the speculations about the works of El Greco and the man himself. A hand-written annotation to a book, similar to the glosses of Saint Emilianus, found in Spain in a copy of Lives of the most excellent architects, painters and sculptors by Giorgio Vasari, has researchers to conclude that the artist -- contrary to popular belief -- was a defender of Byzantine art.

Hand-written annotation by the painter in the Giorgio Vasari book.
Credit: Image courtesy of Plataforma SINC

A new investigation could end many of the speculations about the works of El Greco and the man himself. A hand-written annotation to a book, similar to the glosses of Saint Emilianus, found in Spain in a copy of Lives of the most excellent architects, painters and sculptors by Giorgio Vasari, has led Nicos Hadjinicolau, a researcher from the Institute of Mediterranean Studies, to conclude that the artist – contrary to popular belief– was a defender of Byzantine art.

Related Articles


A new study by Greek art historian Nicos Hadjinicolau, who is a member of the Institute of Mediterranean Studies and Spain’s honorary consul in Crete, contradicts the widely-accepted hypothesis that views El Greco as a painter of Byzantine origin who assimilated and reflected the spirit of Castile after his arrival in Spain, and who was indifferent to the art of his country of origin. Part of this perception is based upon the 1908 book El Greco by Manuel Bartolomé Cossío.

Hadjinicolau says there are no other records of the painter’s critical opinion on the art form aside from the hand-written annotation attributed to him. “The passage I have studied is the exception to the rule, the only time that he makes a comment – and a spirited one – against Vasari,” the expert tells SINC.

A literal translation of the note attributed to the painter reads: “If [Vasari] really knew the nature of the Greek style of which he speaks, he would deal with it differently in what he says. He compares it with Giotto, but what Giotto did is simple in comparison, because the Greek style is full of ingenious difficulties.”

El Greco obtained the book from which this annotation was taken during Italian painter Federico Zuccaro’s visit to Toledo in May 1586. The text that the painter later handed over to his disciple Luis Tristán contained many annotations. How can it be definitively proved who wrote the note, however? Hadjinicolau says that “from a graphological point of view it is easy to compare these comments with El Greco’s signatures, and their authenticity is not in doubt, although the greatest discoveries in this field have been made by Xavier de Salas and Fernando Marías, chair at the Autónoma University of Madrid”.

There is, however, a difference between Marías’ and Hadjinicolau’s translations. What the Spaniard reads as “full of deceptive difficulties”, the Cretan translates as “full of ingenious difficulties”. It seems the original word was cut by the “book binder’s knife”.

The Greek expert says the difference between the sense of the two words is nothing more than a “systematic, artificial and erroneous ‘Spanishisation’”, while the most important aspect is that El Greco’s annotations “have a very oral component – he writes as if he were speaking, and we have never before seen him defend Byzantine art in such a vehement way”.

A second part to Hadjinicolau’s work, again preceded by Marías, focuses on another annotation attributed to El Greco and hand written on a copy of The Ten Books of Architecture by Vitruvio. In this note, Nicos Hadjinicolau says the painter “shows obvious pride in his ‘Greek fathers’, as he calls the ancients, but believes they had been outdone in modern times”.

The unique style of El Greco

Nearly everything that is known today about Doménikos Theotokópoulos is based upon interpretations. El Greco is considered one of the most important painters in the history of the Western world, and his career, which alternated between the Byzantine style of Crete and the mannerism of his latter years in Toledo, has been and still is the subject of much theorising by experts.

El Greco, despite embracing the spirit of the Counter Reformation in his painting, continued to include many elements stemming from Greek tradition (today known as Byzantine) during his final period in Toledo. In pictures such as El Expolio (‘The Disrobing of Christ’), the painter makes use of Byzantine iconography, although Hadjinicolau does not believe this was necessarily done consciously. “El Greco lived for 26 years in Crete. He had a studio and pupils. These things cannot be taken in isolation, and the iconographic elements from Byzantine culture that appear in Orgaz or El Expolio are independent of the defence we perceive in the annotation,” he says.

In spite of this, the researcher, who has written works such as El Greco: Byzantium and Italy and El Greco: Works in Spain admits that “it is clear, since this is the same person, that there is a link between what he says and what he paints”.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Plataforma SINC. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nicos Hadjinicolau. La defensa del arte Bizantino por El Greco: notas sobre una paradoja. Archivo Español de Arte, LXXXI (323) 217-232, Julio- Septiembre 2008.

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Hand-written Note Shows El Greco Defending Byzantine Style In Face Of Western Art." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218132252.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2008, December 18). Hand-written Note Shows El Greco Defending Byzantine Style In Face Of Western Art. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218132252.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Hand-written Note Shows El Greco Defending Byzantine Style In Face Of Western Art." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081218132252.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) — A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) — A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) — Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins