(ZENIT News / Rome, 09.16.2023).- For the first time, three paintings by the artist known as El Greco have left Spain and are on display in Rome as a prelude to the Holy Year.
The exhibition has been installed during the month of September in the Church of Santa Agnes in Agone. The works of the Greek-born painter who settled in Spain during the reign of Philip II in the 16th century are being exhibited in Italy for the first time. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, pro-prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization, declared during the inauguration: “This Jubilee aims to bring beauty and a message of hope to places where it is only a desire. Some exhibitions will go to prisons, hospitals, places where we need to bring, through hope, a strong expression of comfort and the ability to look to the future with courage.”
The painter’s canvases are on display in the Basilica of Santa Agnes, a building erected on the site where the saint was martyred: the Circus of Domitian, the current Piazza Navona. The church was designed by Francesco Borromini with its distinctive undulating facade. Saint Agnes was born in Rome in 291 and was beheaded by the sword during the persecution of Diocletian in 304.
Two of the works by Domínikos Theotokópoulos, commonly known as El Greco during his time in Rome and Spain, come from Toledo: one is the Holy Family with Saint Anne, and the other is the Baptism of Christ, which comes from the Hospital de Tavera; the third, Christ Embracing the Cross, is located in the parish of a small village in La Mancha, El Bonillo. In addition to Monsignor Fisichella, those who prepared the exhibition include the rector of the basilica, Monsignor Paolo Schiavon, the Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, María del Carmen de la Peña Corcuera, and the exhibition curator, Don Alessio Geretti.
The programmatic phrase of the program, “Jubilee is culture,” shows that “the Jubilee is an experience of faith, but also of culture: in a sense, the pilgrim, when coming to Rome, also becomes a tourist, becomes curious and a seeker of beauty.” From this perspective, the goal is for beauty to be experienced during the Holy Year with exhibitions also in unusual places that hold great significance: prisons and hospitals, bringing hope to those in need.
Monsignor Rino Fisichella commented, “The Jubilee is certainly and above all a religious experience. But, as Pope Francis has told us, the Jubilee, in addition to having a spiritual value, also has a social value, and therefore, (the exhibition) is an experience preparing for the Jubilee. Let us not forget, of course, that the exhibited works are by a great artist, considered also a communicator of the mystique of the 16th century, so we are here in a cultural experience and also a profound experience of faith.”
Don Alessio Geretti appreciates the richness of El Greco’s exhibition: “When we look at his works from the late 16th or early 17th century, like these three we have here, we can feel that we are witnessing something like Cézanne in the backgrounds or Kirchner in the elongated figures, or Kandinsky in the conception of color, as an event that generates spiritual resonances within us.” And he concludes: “He painted, putting matter, light, color, and form at the service of the spirit. Consciously, because he declared that for him, art is a moment of revelation and not entertainment for the senses. If we are going to start opening doors, which is the classic gesture of the early Jubilee, let us place works of art instead of the doors of churches, as a reminder that works of art are wide-open doors between the visible and the invisible, between the material and the spiritual.”