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El Greco, The Adoration of the Name of Jesus

Key facts
Full title The Adoration of the Name of Jesus
Artist El Greco
Artist dates 1541 - 1614
Date made late 1570s
Medium and support Oil and egg tempera on pine
Dimensions 55.1 × 33.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1955
Inventory number NG6260
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
The Adoration of the Name of Jesus
El Greco

This picture may have been made as a record of a larger work by El Greco in the Escorial, which he probably painted for Philip II, King of Spain. The letters ‘IHS’ – which stand for IHSOUS, the Greek spelling of ‘Jesus’ – are its main focus.

The figures in the left-hand corner are the members of the so-called Holy League, which was established, in the words of Phillip II, ‘to defend the holy name’ of Christ. They include the Doge (elected head) of Venice, Pope Pius V and Philip himself. The painting celebrates their victory against the Islamic Ottoman Empire in a naval battle at Lepanto, in south-western Greece, in 1571.

El Greco turned the scene into an epic vision of humanity’s judgement and the promise of salvation. To the right the mouth of hell swallows its victims, while other souls are led over a bridge to purgatory, where they will await entry to heaven.

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