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Specific Research on Painters

Updated: Jun 8

After choosing the theme for my project, which represents a controversial topic concerning the times we live in and their vices, I decided to conduct a specific analysis of painters and their works. I am particularly interested in how they depicted sacred images between 1500 and 1600. For example, El Greco.

Analysis of Painters and Their Sacred Works (1500-1600)

1. Historical and Cultural Context

  • Renaissance and Counter-Reformation: The period from 1500 to 1600 encompasses the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation, movements that profoundly influenced religious art. The Catholic Church commissioned many works to counter the Protestant Reformation and inspire devotion.

  • Artistic Influences: This period saw a blend of Byzantine, Renaissance, and Mannerist influences, resulting in a variety of styles and approaches in the depiction of religious scenes.

2. El Greco (1541-1614)

  • Unique Style: El Greco, born Domenikos Theotokopoulos, is known for his unique style that combines Byzantine and Renaissance influences with a distinct Mannerist aesthetic.

  • Main Characteristics:

  • Elongated Figures: His figures are often elongated and distorted, suggesting intense spirituality and a separation from the physical world.

  • Color and Light: His dramatic use of color and light enhances emotions and creates a mystical atmosphere.

  • Dynamic Composition: His compositions are often dynamic and tense, reflecting spiritual conflicts.

3. Notable Works by El Greco

  • “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz” (1586):

  • Description: This monumental work combines realism with mysticism, presenting both the earthly scene of the burial and a celestial vision.

  • Symbolism: El Greco uses divine light to connect heaven and earth, and the elongated figures suggest transfiguration and spirituality.

  • “Christ on the Cross Adored by Two Donors” (1588):

  • Description: This work presents an expressive and intense vision of the crucifixion, with Christ dominating the composition.

  • Symbolism: The contrast between darkness and light underscores suffering and hope, and Christ's posture indicates both agony and triumph.

4. Other Relevant Painters from 1500-1600

  • Leonardo da Vinci: In “The Last Supper” (1495-1498), Da Vinci captures a crucial moment in Christianity with meticulous attention to detail and emotional expressions.

  • Michelangelo: The frescoes in the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), including “The Creation of Adam,” present a monumental and idealized vision of biblical history.

  • Caravaggio: Caravaggio's dramatic style, characterized by the use of chiaroscuro, is evident in works like “The Calling of Saint Matthew” (1599-1600), bringing biblical scenes to a highly realistic and tangible light.

5. Depiction of Saints and Religious Figures

  • Idealization and Realism: Painters of this period balanced idealization of holy figures to highlight their divine perfection and realism to make them accessible and human to believers.

  • Religious Symbolism: The use of religious symbols, such as halos, the cross, and divine light, was omnipresent to signify sanctity and divine presence.


The analysis of the depiction of sacred images between 1500 and 1600 offers a deep understanding of how artists approached religious themes during a period of significant cultural and social change. By studying the works of El Greco and other masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio, we can learn how to artistically address controversial themes and transform them into powerful visual commentaries on the times we live in. This provides us with a perspective on how the vices and virtues of our era can be reflected and analyzed through art.

The research for the project was based more on analysing paintings. I flew to Budapest to see the religious paintings by IL GRECO in the Museum of Fine Arts, and I have observed carefully the lights used in these masterpieces. I also paid attention to how the painters represented the holy values in the Catholic religion.

IL GRECO was a Spanish Mannerist painter of Greek origin, a mysterious personality, both in terms of the specifics of his style and because of his incomplete biography. Best known for his paintings on religious themes and as a portraitist. In several of El Greco's paintings, the figures are noticeably elongated. Some analysts have suggested that a possible refraction error in the artist's eye could be the cause of this peculiar way of seeing. However, it is more likely to assume that these pictures were (should) have been placed on a vertical wall surface, but high compared to the eyes of the viewer standing in front of them, and then the affine distortion outlined in the figure reproduces the correct proportions in the eyes of the viewer.

I realized that their works are very complex, and even the smallest detail, such as the tonality of the picture, can radically change its message or mood.

source: photo Alexandru Radu Popescu (Budapest- fine arts museum)

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