Marianne Moore: Poetry

July 24, 2010

“The Hero:” El Greco

“the startling El Greco / brimming with inner light” (ll 51-52)

We may never know whether Moore had in mind a particular painting by El Greco when she wrote these words, but she is directing us to a work that suggests the opposite of greed. With that as a cue, if we look to works by El Greco in New York by 1930, where she might most easily have seen them, we find a view of Toledo, several Princes of the Church, a vision St. John, and “The Purification of the Temple” in the Frick Collection.

The bequest of Henry Clay Frick in 1909, the  c. 1600 oil on canvas painting is small, 16 1/2 x 28 5/8 inches.  It depicts the biblical moment narrated in Matthew 21:12:

“And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” (King James Version)

Readers may judge whether this is the “startling El Greco.”

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