St. Martin and the Pauper - El Greco. Oil on Canvas 193.5 x 103 cm
El Greco's painting "Saint Martin and the Pauper" tells of the virtuous act of Martin, the son of a formidable military tribune. The young man was preparing for military service and became famous for righteous deeds, even before he accepted the Christian faith. And now he is sitting on a white horse in armor when a poor, shivering man is at his feet.
El Greco captured a famous biblical story when Martin, having regretted a beggar, cut off half of his cloak to give him a warmth. And at night, Christ himself appeared to him, dressed in a piece of a cloak, who addressed him with the words: "It was Martin who dressed me in his cloak." After this, the young man left the army and became a Christian. Later, he tried to convert his parents to faith, but only his mother decided to adopt Christianity.
The painter pushed the characters to the forefront so that the viewer could carefully examine all the details: the poor figure of the poor man, the luxurious vestments of Martin, his humble calm face (more suitable for icons), a dagger that cuts the fabric. As a background, the author used a view of the main city in his life - Toledo. In this way, El Greco seems to combine the real and the surreal. As a kind of vision outside of time and space, a religious history appears before us.
All figures are elongated, as usual with El Greco, and the colors seem to shine from the inside. This is an amazing coloristic feature of the master’s brush - next to his works, other paintings seem to fade.
The work is striking in its calm and narrative. There are no apotheoses, holy nimbuses, angels soaring in the heavens, although from this the canvas does not look less elevated and spiritual, rather the opposite. It is worth paying attention to heaven - the clouds remind us of the wings behind Martin's back, hinting to us that the young man has a righteous destiny, and after his death he will become one of the most revered saints in Europe (especially in France).