The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind features in the European Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was painted in approximately 1575-76 by the artist El Greco in oil on canvas and measures 47 x 57 ½, an outstandingly large painting. It illustrates the passage in the Bible, Book of Mark 10:46-52, which tells that the blind Bartimaeus cried out for Christ's mercy and was healed. (De Montebello, p, 194)
Symbolically, blindness meant that people had no faith in that period, and being bestowed with sight represented accepting true faith. Therefore, in this picture, El Greco demonstrated the great mercy of Christ, pictured placing his hand over Bartimaeus' eye, curing his blindness and filling him with the Holy Spirit.
The artist El Greco was born Domenikos Theotokipolous, in Crete, an island off the coast of Greece. Originally trained as an icon painter, he studied under the great Italian artist Titian, and became a student also of Tintoretto, Veronese, and Jacopo Bassano. He moved to Venice in 1567. There he set about mastering the elements of Renaissance painting, including perspective, figural construction, and the ability to stage elaborate narratives. Among his finest works of this period is The Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind. (www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/grec/hd_htm, p. 1) He then traveled to Rome, were he worked from 1570-1576, joining the painter's academy and setting up shop, taking on assistants.
[...] El Greco places the most importance on the activities in the foreground, however, and it is only by careful observation that one is able to glean the meaning. The couple at the lower right, again, seems oblivious to the actual miracle occurring in front of their eyes. Rather than focusing on Christ, the man actually shields the woman from the raggedy presence of the blind beggar while she seems like and upper class, provocatively-clad woman who is either amused or shocked by his appearance. [...]
[...] Miracle of Christ Healing the Blind” contains many of the traits of late Byzantine and early Renaissance paintings the religious iconography, the use of the vanishing point in perspective, the white structures and overcast sky in the background, all characteristics which can be seen in the early masters Giotto and Fra Angelico, and also the great Renaissance landscape painters, like Titian and Raphael. What differentiates El Greco's painting, is the amount of action and the proliferation of figures. There are actually five distinct scenes occurring simultaneously. [...]
[...] Perhaps El Greco wanted to show the difficult life he had, that he had built up his shoulder by his begging activities and other sorts of manual labor, the only work a blind person could get. The red color, somewhat more muted, is also shown in one of the figures in the middle ground. The woman in the foreground is well lit as well, as is the bald head of one of the apostles. El Greco was obviously a very accomplished artist, as all of the figures are proportioned correctly and the modeling on the bodies is skilled; they look very three—dimensional, in contrast to the Byzantine or early iconographic paintings, which are two-dimensional. [...]
[...] El Greco must have been a wise observer of humanity to portray this scene so realistically, aware that a blind beggar was not an attention-getter, that people were too concerned with their petty activities to be troubled by such an event, and that this reflected, in the larger picture, their overall lack of faith. During his time, Christ was probably not the celebrated and legendary figure we know from the history books and the Bible. Probably at that time, he was just another person, and did not attract much attention even though he was doing something miraculous. [...]
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