The Burial of the Count of Orgaz by Mary Podles

A THOUSAND WORDS by Mary Elizabeth Podles

The Burial of the Count of Orgaz

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco

Sometimes we still have the actual contracts that artists signed which specified the exact nature of the painting to be produced, and they can be an invaluable tool for the art historian. Such is the case with El Greco's Burial of the Count of Orgaz: both the original contract and, alas, the records of the litigation subsequent to it survive in the archives in Toledo, Spain. The painting was commissioned for the Church of Santo Tomé to decorate the burial chapel of its fourteenth-century benefactor, Gonzalo Ruiz de Toledo, later known as the Count of Orgaz, and was to depict the story of his funeral. So great was the count's virtue and generosity, ran the story, that at his death Saints Stephen and Augustine appeared and lowered his body into its tomb in this very chapel.

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

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