El Greco painted two major series of three-quarter length easel pictures of Christ
and the Apostles
, both from circa
1605-10. Known as the Apostolados
, each series is still preserved intact, one in the Toldeo cathedral and the other in the Museo del Greco at Toledo (see H. E. Wethey, El Greco and His School
, Princeton 1962, vol. I, figs. 206-230). The present painting is a quotation that follows the composition of Saint Luke
, the prime version of which is only recorded in the Toledo Cathedral series. The composition of Saint Luke
was apparently quite popular, owing to the numerous variations and later repetitions that have surfaced over the years. The entire series, in fact, found great favor in Europe, as they illustrated, and epitomized, a Counter-Reformationist approach to religious imagery, notably by humanizing the various saints and focussing on their individual personalities.
A note on the provenance:
Theodore Pitcairn (1893–1973), was an avid art collector and philanthropist in the mid-20th century, whose eclectic and important collection included works by Vincent van Gogh, various Egyptian antiquities, and no less than two paintings by El Greco.