Burial Count Orgaz, by el Greco. Painted in 1586, it’s placed in Santo Tome church. Toledo. Spain.
“Burial of Count Orgaz” is one of the paintings that most have impressed me. The topic is a medieval legend. Gonzalo Ruiz de Toledo, Earl of Orgaz, was a pious and generous man. Then, when he died in 1323, two important saints (Esteban and Agustin) descended to Earth to bury such a wonderful gentleman. Heavens were opened to see the event and angels were singing melodious songs. Beautiful? Yes, I think so. However, the circumstances two centuries later, when the large masterpiece was painted by el Greco were less “angelical” and more chrematistic.
In his will, the good Earl, had left the order of paying the priest of Santo Tome (a church in Toledo, Spain) two goats, eight chickens, two casks of wine and 800 coins every year. Who had to pay (and this is the funny point), they were the peasants of his lands (!!!!!). Of course, nobody paid…, well, until 1564. That year appeared in the church of Santo Tome a priest who was not willing to be taken for a ride, don Andres Nuñez de Madrid, and after several claims and judgments, he got his money (in fact, a lot, because they had to multiply by 200 years).
Don Andres was happy with his money and this day went to meet the best painter of Toledo: El Greco, a Renaissance painter who had even worked by the king Philip II in el Escorial. The priest was so happy he didn’t close the contract properly and when months later, El Greco reclaimed him 1200 coins of gold by his work, don Andres refused to pay. New claims and judgments (two impartial painters valued the painting by El Greco in 1600 coins of gold)… The priest started to be sad.
In the end, the mean priest paid reluctantly. He did not know that he had purchased one of the best pictures of art history. Stinginess is a great sin. For sure no saint came to his funeral.