'El espolio' (The Disrobing of Christ)
El Greco (Kríti [Crete] 1541 - Toledo province 1614)
'El espolio' or The Disrobing of Christ was painted by Domenikos Theotocopoulos, the painter from Crete who studied in Venice and became better known as El Greco (the Greek), the idiosyncratic Mannerist artist who came to live in Toledo, Spain where the larger 1577 version of this vibrant painting is. It was owned by the French Romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix, amongst others, before entering Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted’s collection at Upton House and given to the National Trust in 1948. It shows the drama of the poignant moment, mentioned in the apochryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, when Christ stands on Cavalry, in the presence of the three Marys, whilst his cross is being prepared for his Crucifixion and the scarlet robe that he has already been dressed in, is about to be ripped off.
Oil painting on pine panel, 'El espolio' (The Disrobing of Christ) by El Greco (Kríti 1541 - Toledo province 1614), signed in two lines on the paper/cartellino on the right (mostly effaced): Δ…ΟΣ ΘΕΟΤ…ΥΝΟΣΣ (Domenikos Theoto [copoulos] Cretan made), 1577/78. Christ stands on Calvary in the centre of a group of soldiers, one of whom reaches for His robe; in the right foreground an executioner bends over the cross which lies on the ground and pierces holes for the nails; he is watched by the three Marys (Mary Cleophas, the Virgin and Mary Magdalen) standing at the left in distress. A small version of three existing and an autograph replica which some have suggested is the model (there is prominent underdrawing visible) rather than a subsequent copy of the famous painting in the Sacristy in Toledo Cathedral commissioned by Diego de Castilla, Dean on 2 July 1577 to hang in the Vestry and completed in 1579 and could well have been originally been owned Diego himself. The scene alludes to the part of the Passion told by Matthew in his Gospel (xxvii 27-28): 'Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers. And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.' The title comes from the Latin verb 'spoliare' (in Spanish: espolio): to strip, rather than 'expilire (in Spanish: expolio)': to rape/plunder.
Possibly owned by Diego de Castilla (1510/15-1584),1577-84; Don Gaspar de Haro y Guzman, 7th Marquis del Carpio and de Heliche (1629- 1687) as is indicated by the monogram DGH on the back of the panel; inherited by his daughter Doña Catalina de Haro, who married the 10th Duke of Alba in 1688; possibly Queen Maria Cristina de Borbón-Dos Sicilias (1806 - 1878), widow of Ferdinand VII (1784-1833); in Paris in 19th century, belonged to the artist Eugène Delacroix and later his executor Baron Louis-Auguste Schwiter (1805 -1889); Schwiter sale, Paris 3 May 1886, lot 10; acquired by P. A. Chéramy (1840- 1912), Paris; Chéramy sale Galerie George Petit, Paris 5 - 7 May 1908, lot 77: bought by M. Ducrey, Paris; bought by Wildenstein, Paris, 1938 on behalf of 2nd Viscount Bearsted who paid £5,000 for it in June; given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948), in 1948, shortly before his death
Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)
Marks and inscriptions
Verso: DGH - Don Gaspar de Haro
Makers and roles
El Greco (Kríti [Crete] 1541 - Toledo province 1614) , artist
The Greek of Toledo, Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain , 2014, no.cat.42 New Light on Old Masters, Squash Court Gallery, 2013
Wethey 1962 Harold E. Wethey, El Greco and his School, 2 vols., Princeton University Press, 1962, no. 80, II, pp. 54-6 Camon Aznar 1964 Jose Camon Aznar, Velázquez, Madrid, 2 vols, 1950 (revised edition 1970), no. 150 El Greco of Toledo Painter of the Visible and the Invisible (ed. Fernando Marias), Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain 14th March - 14th June 2014, no.42, pp.191