The Disrobing of Christ

The Disrobing of Christ
Artist El Greco
Year 1577–1579
Medium Oil on canvas
Location Sacristy of the Toledo Cathedral, Spain
Dimensions 112 in × 68 in
285 cm × 173 cm
Famous Paintings by El Greco
The Disrobing of Christ, 1577–1579
Opening of the Fifth Seal, 1608-1614
Dormition of the Virgin, 1565-1566
The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, 1586
View of Toledo, 1596-1600
The Adoration of the Shepherds, 1612–14
Christ Healing the Blind, c. 1570
The Entombment of Christ, c.1570
St. Martin and the Beggar, 1597-1599
Complete Works

The Disrobing of Christ, otherwise known as the El Expolio is a famous painting by the great artist El Greco. It was made during the summer of 1577 and was completed in the early quarter of 1579. At present, the painting is displayed at the Cathedral of Toledo at the sacristy.


The artwork presents Christ with his head up high to the heavens, which depicts a deep expression of serenity. This ethereal figure seems rather separated from the other images in the painting, as there was violence and chaos surrounding the holy image. Moreover, there is a figure clad in black that appears to point at Christ in an accusing manner. The two other characters in the painting, on the other hand, are presented as though they are arguing about the rightful owner of Christ’s garments.

In addition, there is a man dressed in green who is positioned at Christ’s left. This man holds a rope, and he is about to remove Christ’s robe, in preparation for the holy one’s crucifixion. A man with a yellow robe bends over the majestic cross, and he drills the hole where the nail is to be inserted and driven through the feet of Christ. Despite the chaos around, Christ’s radiant face serves as the only calming element in the violence expressed throughout the painting. He was dressed in a brilliant red robe, and it is on Christ’s dress where El Greco exerted the magnificent force and focus of his art. On the other hand, the purple garment of Christ, which symbolizes the Savior’s divine passion, is spread out and folded lightly.

In the left portion of the painting, the three Mary’s were presented as though they are in agony and distress. The presence of these women was deeply objected by the authorities of the Cathedral, as they are not present in the Gospels. However, El Greco added this detail based on Saint Bonaventure’s Meditations on the Passion of Christ.

Despite the gloomy and chaotic situation in this painting, El Greco presented Christ as a tranquil, robust and dominating figure that seemed to be built as solidly as a wall. The artist decided to apply the space elimination method, which was a common technique during the 16th century.

Dispute and Arbitrations

Although the artwork was magnificent and exquisite, there were arbitrations and disputes that existed between the artist and the Cathedral authorities regarding the price of this famous artwork. In fact, El Greco was forced to have his recourse to the legal arbitration, and he received 350 ducats for the painting when the appraiser valued this masterpiece at 950 ducats. Furthermore, he was asked to remove some of the characters that the Church authorities objected to, although he never did. Nevertheless, The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco has become a massive success, and there are about 17 versions of this painting. The two smaller versions of this renowned artwork are accepted as made by El Greco himself, and one of these is possibly an oil sketch studio or a studio record of this remarkable masterpiece.

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