The Burial of Count Orgaz is a painting by the Spanish painter El Greco (or Domenikos Theotokopoulos for those who just love memorizing typical names), dating from 1586. It is also known as The Burial of the Count of Orgaz and under its original Spanish title El Entierro del Conde de Orgaz.
In the words of the Spanish critic Camón Aznar, The Burial of Count Orgaz "represents not only the pinnacle of El Greco's work, but also that of universal art as a whole". It is a strong statement, yet one that has been seconded time and time again. The year 1586 was a period when El Greco was at the peak of his maturity. It was painted specifically for its own chapel at the one end of the church of Santo Tomé in Toledo, and it has never left it. The last is perhaps in part due to its measurements: 7.7 by 4.7 meters.
In reality, the painting represents a miracle, expressed so naturally in the action lived out by the participants that one is hardly aware of it. The devout Count Orgaz was respected greatly for piety in his native Toledo. The Count, whose real name was Don Gonzalo Ruíz de Toledo and who had taken part in the founding of a convent dedicated to San Agustín (Saint Augustine), had left provisions in his will for a dedication of a church to San Esteban (Saint Stephen). At the moment of his burial, both saints appeared in the flesh and laid the Count to rest in his grave, a miracle that allegedly occurred in 1312. San Agustín is the one on the right with miter and bishop's cloak, while San Esteban is the young deacon on the left.
The structural force and organic unity of this painting are extraordinary. For a long time, it was looked at from two levels: historians focused on the lower part, whilst art critics directed their attention to the upper, heavenly region. The tendency now is to recognize the overall unity and naturalness that unite the earthly and heavenly as the Count's soul passes into glory.
The faces of the dignified Spanish gentlemen on the painting are clearly portraits of the people in El Greco's life. A label with "El Greco made me" sticks out of the pocket of the small boy in front. Some historians think that it is an indication that the child is El Greco's son Jorge Manuel, who also has a handkerchief with his year of birth: 1578. The boy points to the body of the deceased, thus bringing together birth and death. Recognizable men in the painting include the architect Alonso de Covarrubias, the parish priest Andrés Núñez and the Count of Benavente. The artist himself can be recognized in the caballero third from the left, immediately above the head of Saint Stephen.
The Church of Santo Tomé is located in one ot the main areas of Toledo. The church building itself has a beautiful mudejar tower. The chapel with The Burial has its own separate entrance to avoid disturbing worshippers. It can be very crowded. Photographing is prohibited, but security is loose (we managed to take a picture, although it was a very vague one). Visiting hours are from 10 to 19 (closed during siesta).
A picture of the painting can be found online at http://www.kfki.hu/~arthp/art/g/greco_el/1581-90/08orgaz.jpg.