The island of Crete, birthplace of the Renaissance master Domenicos Theotokopoulos who is better known by the nickname El Greco, is to kick off a round of exhibitions in Greece for El Greco Year, reports Athens News Agency.
The Greek tribute to the painter, marking the 400th anniversary since the old master's death, starts with the inauguration on June 20 of the exhibition "Domenikos Theotokopoulos between Venice and Rome" at the Historical Museum of Crete in Iraklio.
The exhibition is dedicated to the painter's Italian period and will be open to the public on June 21, running until October 25. After this date it will be transferred to the Benaki Museum in Athens, which helped organise the exhibition, where it will run from November 21 until March 1, 2015.
According to the announcement, the exhibition takes the two paintings on permanent display at the Historical Museum of Crete as its focal point – "View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine" and "The Baptism of Christ" – to recreate the broader artistic milieu. Relevant works from 16th century Cretan icon painting are on display, as well as similarly themed works by Western artists. The human milieu surrounding Theotokopoulos will be recreated in parallel, with his noted patrons, and the major artists he became associated with during his time in Italy, at a time when the recognition, support and protection of prominent personages was essential to an artist's survival and advancement. The historical figures presented in the exhibition are the powerful cardinal Alessandro Farnese, at whose palace in Rome El Greco stayed for two years; his librarian Fulvio Orsini; and the famed miniaturist Giulio Clovio, who, in a letter to Cardinal Farnese, described Theotokopoulos as "a rare case in painting".
The exhibition presents major paintings and engravings from museums and private collections in Greece and abroad: the Galleria Uffizi (Florence); Pinacoteca Vaticana (Rome); Münchner Stadtmuseum (Munich); Kupferstichkabinett (Berlin); Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica (Rome); the Benaki Museum; the Byzantine and Christian Museum (Athens);the Gennadius Library; the Zosimaia Library; the Archdiocese of Crete; the Marianna Latsi Collection. Works to be exhibited for the first ever time in Greece include The Adoration of the Shepherds held by the Agnes Etherington Art Center (Kingston, Ontario, Canada); Portrait of Guilio Clovio by Sofonisba Anguissola, from the Malgeri-Zeri Collection (Rome); and a Portrait of Fulvio Orsini by an unknown artist, from the Uffizi Gallery Museum (Florence). The exhibition is complemented by a wealth of archive material, books and documentary evidence.
Events on Theotokopoulos will also be held in other museums in Greece, among them the National Gallery, the Alex Mylonas Museum - Macedonia Museum of Contemporary Art and the Byzantine & Christian Museum, whose planned exhibition "Domenicos Theotokopoulos before El Greco" was approved by the Central Archaeological Council on June 17.
The Byzantine & Christian museum exhibition will focus on the influence exerted on the artist by the social and artistic environment of his native Crete and how this formed his character and personality. It will start on November 19, 2014 and run until March 31, 2015, featuring a series of artifacts and works of art held by archaeological museums and the antiquities services, including a wealth of coins from the Iraklio Archaeological Museum, a medal from the Nafpaktos Naval Battle from the Rethymno archaeological museum, an icon from a chapel on the island of Kos painted by one of El Greco's Cretan contemporaries - the artist Georgios Klontzas (also from Handakas on Crete) - which depicts the Assumption of the Virgin (the same theme as a famous El Greco painting) dating from the second half of the 16th century and others.
Among the paintings to be included are the artist's "Luke the Evangelist" and "The Adoration of the Magi" from the Benaki Museum, the "Dormition of the Virgin" loaned by Syros Cathedral, "St. John the Baptist" from the Fine Arts Museum in Valencia, Spain and "St. Francis of Assisi and Fra Leone" from the Pinacoteca Brera in Milan, in addition to 24 other works of art on loan from Italy, Spain, Austria and Bosnia-Herzegovina.