'St John the Evangelist'

El Greco

Portrait of a pale man in robes

© David Lewis family interests

This painting was originally part of a series of portraits of Christ and his apostles, known as an Apostolado in Spanish. El Greco was the first artist in Spain to paint the theme, probably around 1600. His first Apostolado was so successful that he painted at least five more.

This St John was probably painted at the end of El Greco’s life. It has all the characteristics of his later work, including blurred facial features, free brushwork and sharp colours. It was probably ordered by a wealthy religious institution, as 13 canvases by El Greco would have been too expensive for an individual to buy.