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About the Object
In this painting, El Greco expresses spiritual drama by his distinctive use of line, light and color. St. Hyacinth kneels in awed wonder before a mystical vision of the Virgin and Child. The scene takes place in a church interior with pillars and a patterned floor; a shadowy, monochrome figure or statue of a bishop, identifiable by his hooked staff, stands behind the enraptured saint.
According to Christian legend, Hyacinth, a Polish Dominican priest who lived from 1185-1287, witnessed a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary on the feast day of her Assumption-the day she was "taken up body and soul into heavenly glory." In 1594, shortly before El Greco painted this work, Hyacinth was granted sainthood by Pope Clement VIII.
El Greco ("The Greek") is the popular name of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, an artist born in Crete but who lived and studied in Venice and Rome. In 1575, he moved to Toledo, Spain, the center of the Catholic Church's Counter-Reformation activities. During his career, El Greco developed a unique and dramatically spiritual style of painting that is often considered the forerunner of Baroque art.
A larger version of this painting is in the Barnes collection.