El Greco (1541-1614)
This is one of the most beautiful paintings of the series, and is signed with El Greco's full name in the sword.
The sword is the instrument with which Saint Paul was beheaded, and the Saint appears associated with this sword since the 13th century. The letter, written in Greek, has the beginning of his epistle to Titus: "To Titus first bishop of the Cretan church"
In all his apostle series El Greco adds Saint Paul. Despite not being one of the canonical apostles, Saint Paul designated himself as the "Apostle of the Gentiles".
Throughout the 16th century we find in Toledo interesting pictorical representations of the 12 apostles. These creations started with the predella of the main altarpiece in the church of Saint Andrew, a work signed by Juan de Borgoña and Antonio de Cremontes, in which the apotles are depicted half-length, in an attitude of dialogue and with a golden brackground. In El Greco's last years the artist renewed the meaning of these series and turned them into a novel production that was no longer destined to occupy a place in the altarpieces. He designed 13 individual paintings with the images of Christ the Saviour and the 12 apostles, cut out on neutral backgrounds, endowed with monumental form and psychological expresiveness. The apostles are covered with tunic and cloak and are accompanied by identifying attributes of each character. In addition to these attributes, El Greco envisaged, for each apostle, chromatic combinations for their clothes and their own gestures that would become codes of identification of the characters.
El Greco’s style
Rafael Alonso, a restorer at the Prado Museum, analyses El Greco’s technique through the Apostolate series held by the El Greco Museum. The beauty of this series, painted during the artist’s final period, lies in the fact that it is unfinished, a feature that opens a window into the different stages of execution in the making of a work by the master Doménico.