El Greco: St Francis and St John the Evangelist

I’ve had this draft sitting here in WordPress for three years with the above title, the content consisting solely of a link to this painting:

8452a8a4b4be891When I saw this painting in the Uffizi, there were some British visitors in the room. One in a wheelchair gestured at the painting, ‘What is that one?’

The pusher of the chair, who had been telling her comrade in wheels about the art, said merely, ‘It’s some man with a cup with a dragon in it.’

And moved on.

Although she did have more to say about a still life somewhere nearby.

She could at least have read the label, which confirmed what I had suspected: St John the Evangelist and St Francis of Assisi, by El Greco.

St John is identifiable by his cup with the dragon in it. The story goes that someone one tried to poison St John, and when the saint blessed his cup before drinking, it cracked and a dragon leapt out. If memory serves correctly, the same thing happened to St Benedict.

Dragons, by the biblical imagery, are representative of the Devil, the demons, and all manner of evil and mischief. So it makes a lot of sense as an image when someone is trying to murder someone else. Also, dragons are originally drakones, which are just big snakes. And snakes in biblical and western imagery and symbolism are tricksy and twisty and not to be trusted. Fitting for someone so wriggly as to murder by poison rather than face-to-face.

I first encountered the St-John-with-his-dragon-in-a-cup image in South Queensferry at the Priory Church:

My photo
My photo

And St Francis is your typical El Greco Franciscan. I do love an El Greco Franciscan. That pictured below was my first, sent to me in a postcard by my friend Emily:

1504grec

I realise that each of us has his/her own pieces that attract us more than others in a gallery, and I shouldn’t be a snob, anyway. But I wished I could have informed my fellow visitors, without being a jerk. But I’m too much of a jerk for that, so I decided to write a blog.

Because I like this painting, and maybe you, gentle reader, will like it, too.

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2 thoughts on “El Greco: St Francis and St John the Evangelist

  1. Hi, I have tried to unsubscribe but to no avail. So please do not send me these emails agin.

    best regards, Peter

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