|El Greco painted tucked four of his heroes — Titian, Michelangelo, Giulio Clovio and Raphael — in the lower right corner of “Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple.”|
Doménikos Theotokópoulos was lucky when it came to plague.
The painter passed through Venice in 1575, the year the Black Death killed a third of the residents of that crowded maritime port. He was on his way from Rome, where he had studied under the great painter Titian — who himself would soon after die of plague — to Spain, where he would establish his own enduring fame as El Greco, “The Greek.”
But his luck with plagues ran out recently, as a major show of his work, “El Greco: Ambition and Defiance,” opened at The Art Institute of Chicago March 7, only to go dark six days later when the museum closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
I was fortunate to see the show during the brief span it was open, admiring how it re-united scattered works that had not been in the same room for centuries.
I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the show’s curators, and wonder: what is it like to dedicate years of your life to such a project only to have it displayed to empty galleries?
“I worked on it a long time,” said Rebecca Long, who curated the show for The Art Institute. “There were a lot of negotiations. Some paintings we weren’t able to get. All in all, solidly worked for four years. ”
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