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The Veil of Saint Veronica
El Greco (and workshop)
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El Greco (and workshop)

The Veil of Saint Veronica

1586 - 1595. Oil on canvas

El Greco executed various versions of the Holy Face on the Veil of Veronica, an iconographic motif that became very popular at the end of the Middle Ages. According to the story that developed during the medieval period, on His way to Calvary a woman offered Jesus a white cloth to wipe the sweat and blood from His brow, and the features of His face became imprinted on the cloth. There is no biblical account of this event, although the story may be remotely connected to the woman who is healed by touching Jesus´ garment in Luke 8:43-48 and who, in one of the apocryphal gospels, is called Veronica, though this episode is not related to the Passion. Rather, the connection between the name Veronica and the legend of the veil, appears to have more to do with wordplay: the name may be a personification of the cloth itself, a vera icona or true image of Christ´s features, constructed in blood and sweat and a symbol therefore of the human nature of the Son of God. Some compositions present the figure of the woman holding up the cloth imprinted with the face of Jesus; others present only the veil. El Greco painted both types of image. (There is a record of him having worked, for instance, on a Veronica with angels, an unfinished painting that is listed in the inventory of the artist´s possessions after his death in 1614, a reference that suggests a connection with a print from 1513 by Albrecht Dürer, whose engravings were very important in El Greco´s work). The canvas in the Museo del Prado derives from a painting that El Greco executed for the central altarpiece of the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo in Toledo, painted on a wood panel and in an oval format (now in a private collection). In this painting, Christ does not wear a crown of thorns, though traces of blood are present. His facial features -a serene expression with an intense gaze that recalls Byzantine models- reflect the precedent of El Greco´s The Disrobing of Christ 1577-79 (also known as El Expolio), in the Cathedral of Toledo. The panel for the altarpiece in the Toledo church was situated fairly high above the viewers, an atypical placement for such an image, which would usually be hung closer to the level of the viewer, allowing the faithful to kneel before the image or even kiss it. By contrast, this canvas -from a parish church in Móstoles, near Madrid- was recorded in 1787 as hanging on a pillar. The Veil of Saint Veronica varies from the original panel in Toledo, principally owing to its rectangular format. It must have been painted soon after the original, but before that work was hung in the Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. The two paintings also differ in terms of the quality of execution. While the first is entirely the work of El Greco, his workshop was involved in the creation of this canvas: it has been executed more summarily and is less nuanced, though it maintains a hypnotic capacity to attract the viewer´s gaze. During the Spanish Civil War, this canvas was moved to the Museo del Prado, and acquired by the Spanish State in 1945 (Ruiz, L.: Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado, Queensland Art Gallery-Art Exhibitions Australia, 2012, p. 120).


Technical data

Inventory number
El Greco (and workshop)
The Veil of Saint Veronica
1586 - 1595
Height: 71 cm.; Width: 54 cm.
Sacristy of the parish church of Móstoles (Madrid); acquired by the Prado Museum, 1944.

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España, VII, por la Viuda de Joachin Ibarra, Madrid, 1787, pp. 4.

Ceán Bermúdez, Juan Agustín, Diccionario histórico de los más ilustres profesores de las Bellas Artes en España, V, Imprenta de la Viuda de Ibarra, Madrid, 1800, pp. II.

Cossío, Manuel B.1857-1935, El Greco, Victoriano Suárez, Madrid, 1908, pp. n.144.

Mayer, A. L., Domenico Theotocopuli, El Greco, Munich, 1926, pp. n.69.

Legendre, M. Hartmann, A, Domenico Theotocopouli dit el Greco, Hyperion, Paris, 1937, pp. Lám.194.

Caturla, Maria Luisa, La Verónica. Vida de un tema y su transfiguración por El Greco, Revista de occidente, 1944.

Lafuente Ferrari, Enrique, El Greco: some recent discoveries, The Burlington magazine, LXXXVII, 1945, pp. 293-301 [295].

Camón Aznar, José1898-1979, Dominico Greco, I y II, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1950, pp. 284-286 n.144.

Soehner, Halldor, Greco in Spainien. Teil II. Atelier und Nachfolge Greco's; Teil III katalog der Gëmalde Grecos, seines ateliers und seiner Nachfolge in Spanischem besitz, Münchner jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, IX-X, 1958-1959, pp. 147-242 [n.94].

Wethey, Harold, El Greco and his school, Princenton University Press, 1962, pp. n 285.

Wethey, Harold, El Greco y su escuela, II, Guadarrama, Madrid, 1967, pp. 159-161 n.285.

Camón Aznar, José, Dominico Greco, I, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1970, pp. 311-313.

Camón Aznar, José, Dominico Greco, II, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1970, pp. n.146.

Salas, Xavier de, La obra pictórica completa de el Greco, Noguer, Barcelona Madrid, 1970, pp. n.84.

Gudiol, José1904-1985, El Greco 1541-1614: Doménikos Theotokópoulos, Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1971, pp. 77, 342 n.45.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Pita Andrade, José Manuel, El Greco, Arnoldo Mondadori, Milán, 1981, pp. n.46.

Álvarez Lopera, José, La Pasión de Cristo en la pintura del Greco, Cuadernos de Arte de la Fundación Universitaria, 1/5, 1985, pp. 19.

Álvarez Lopera, José, La Pasión de Cristo en la pintura del Greco, Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 1985, pp. 19-20.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 319.

Alcolea Gil, Santiago, El Greco, Polígrafa, Barcelona, 1990, pp. lám.17.

Álvarez Lopera, José, El Greco: la obra esencial, Silex, Madrid, 1993, pp. n.51.

El Greco: su revalorizacion por el modernismo catalán, Museu Nacional d'Art de CatalunyaProaEnciclopedia, Barcelona, 1996, pp. 108-109.

Réau, Louis1881-1961, Iconografía del arte cristiano, Serbal, Barcelona, 1996, pp. Tomo I Vol I pg. 23-26. Tomo II Vol V pg.315-318.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Marías, Fernando, El Greco . Guía, Alianza Editorial - Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1998, pp. 32.

El Grecoca. 1541-1614, El Greco: identidad y transformación : Creta, Italia, España, Fundación Colección Thyssen-BornemiszaSkira, Milán, 1999, pp. 391 n.50.

Facies Deitatis. Los rostros de Dios, Consorcio de Santiago, Santiago De Compostela, 2000, pp. n.140.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del PradoAldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 90.

Ruiz Gomez, Leticia, El Greco en el Museo Nacional del Prado : catálogo razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, pp. 61-65 n.6.

El Greco y su taller, SEACEX, Madrid, 2007.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, El Greco and workshop ' Holy Face' En:, Sacred Spain. Art and belief in the Spanish world, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2009, pp. 208-209.

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from The Prado, Queensland Art Gallery, 2012, pp. 120-121 nº 21.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, El Greco arte y oficio, El Greco arte y oficio, Fundación El Greco 2014, 2014, pp. n.24 p.44,226.

Ruiz Gómez, Leticia, 'El Greco arte y oficio. Invención e interpretación' En:, El Greco arte y oficio, Fundación El Greco 2014, 2014, pp. 40-65 [45].

Pereda, Felipe, 'La Santa Faz de Cristo y La Verónica' En:, El Griego de Toledo. Pintor de lo visible y lo invisible, Fundación El Greco, 2014, pp. 210-215 [214].

Ruiz de Loizaga, M., 'El controvertido legado bizantino en la obra pictórica del Greco', Cuadernos de arte e iconografía, 2 semestre n.48, 2015, pp. 355-434 [383 f.17].

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1742.
1742 / Autor. El Greco (Domenico Theotocopouli) / Asunto, la Santa Faz / Lienzo 71 x 54 cms / Nº catálogo, 2874</br>Adquirido por el patronato a la parroquia de Móstoles el 7-XII-44 en 100.000 ptas''.

Exhibitions +

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
Tokio / Kobe
24.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
20.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Meta-painting. A Journey to the Idea of Art
15.11.2016 - 19.02.2017

El Greco. Arte y Oficio
08.09.2014 - 09.12.2014

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
16.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Houston TX
15.12.2012 - 31.03.2013

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
22.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Portrait of Spain. Masterpieces from the Prado
Brisbane, Australia
21.07.2012 - 04.11.2012

Sacred Spain - España Sagrada: Arte y Creencia en el Mundo Hispano
Indianapolis IN
11.10.2009 - 03.01.2010

El Greco in the Prado
04.12.2007 - 17.02.2008

El taller de El Greco
15.10.2007 - 06.01.2008

Facies Deitatis. Los rostros de Dios
Santiago de Compostela
15.09.2000 - 30.11.2000

El Greco. Identidad y transformación
14.10.1999 - 17.01.2000

El Greco. Identidad y transformación
10.06.1999 - 19.09.1999

La revalorización moderna de El Greco y el modernismo catalán
20.12.1996 - 02.03.1997

Location +

(Temporary Exhibition)

Update date: 09-04-2018 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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