The Healing of the Blind Man

Dominikos Theotokopoulos known as "El Greco" (1573 circa)

By Palazzo della Pilotta

Healing of the Blind (1571-1572) by Domenico Theotokopulos, called El GrecoPalazzo della Pilotta

The work has been documented in the collection of Palazzo Farnese in Rome since the end of the XVII century and it seems probable that it was commissioned directly from the Cretan artist by Cardinal Alessandro:

in fact, the artist arrived in Rome from Venice in 1570 and was recommended to the high ranking prelate by the miniaturist Giulio Clovio, who was working for the Farnese at that time and had found a significant supporter in the Cardinal’s erudite librarian, Fulvio Orsini.

In the small painting the space is greatly amplified by the squared floor which takes the eye far away from the perspective created by the arcades of a temple and the glimpse of two renaissance buildings which continues in the ruins of telescoped arcades.

The cloudy sky looms over the figures in the square:

figures which have been rendered with rapid brushstrokes and animate the foreground scene where Christ is healing the blind man.

In the crowded group on the left can be seen a number of identifiable portraits: possibly the young Prince Alessandro Farnese at one extremity and Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese in the middle.

Some scholars have identified these personages as effigies of members of the Farnese family and they are not found in two other versions of this subject painted by El Greco, one in Dresden which can be dated to the first Venetian stay and the other in New York which is considered to belong to the arrival in Spain.

The subject is, amongst other things, perfectly in line with a commission from a Cardinal: the parable of Christ restoring sight to a blind man constitutes, in a period of profound religious crisis and split within Christian Europe between Catholics and Protestants.

A clear allegory of the role of the Church of Rome in opening eyes to the true faith, like Christ Himself.

The artist’s palette and, in general, the entire composition of the painting is still heavily influenced by the Venetian example of Tintoretto.

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