St. Francis and Brother Leo Meditating on Death, c. 1600-1605
oil on canvas
168 x 103.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4267)
El Greco reveals his deep debt to contemporary Venetian painting, adapting its methods of working and sharing its sensitivity to the expressive potential of paint itself. The artist prepared the canvas with a dull red-brown coloured ground, over which he sketched the figures before beginning to paint. The ground functioned as a half-tone (between shadow and light) or left starkly exposed in many areas. The animated brush strokes are characteristic of el Greco's work - both describing the play of light over surface topography and visible traces of the artist's brush as it moves across the canvas, they are simultaneously controlled and expressive. He signs the work on the small piece of paper at lower right - placed as if stuck onto the surface of the painting.
Frame: carved wood, polychromed and part gilded. Spain, late 16th-early 17th century.