The landscape of the God-trodden mount Sinai
Painted around 1568-1570, Doménikos Theotokópoulos ’ (El Greco) masterpiece "View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine" has been identified with a painting of the Fulvio Orsini collection which was recorded in Rome in 1600. Having formed part of various private collections in Budapest and Vienna, it was purchased by the Historical Museum of Crete in 1991. Painted on wood, the painting is almost square (0.41x0.475 m) and represents three acute mountainous volumes, directed inwards, with smaller hills which are used to define the rendering of space in three dimensions. By the central mountain – Moses’ Mount Choriv - one can see a fortified monastery and other small monastic buildings in an elliptical enclosure, while small cells are scattered around the ridges.
The painting is an emblematic example of post-Byzantine landscape iconography, as this iconography evolves from within an Eastern Orthodox artistic environment yet in close association with the West. Besides, it has been stated that Theotokópoulos was associated with the “metochion” (annexe) of St. Catherine’s Sinai monastery in Heraklion, while he is known for having painted the subject once more: on the famous Modena Triptych, which also moves stylized between East and West. In both cases, the painter draws inspiration from Western-style copper engravings depicting the Sinai landscape, which circulate in Europe in the second half of the 16th century. The subject also responds to the work of other Cretan painters of the period.
"We have reason to believe that Doménikos is the author of the subject of the Sinai landscape in post-Byzantine iconography," writes Manolis Hatzidakis in his study "View of Mt. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine- (7-239) The Greco painting at the Historical Museum of Crete ", pointing out that, from very early, the emblematic painter’s art was groundbreaking in uniting the Christian Eastern and the Western styles. Hatzidakis' book, which analyzes exclusively the unique style of the painting, represents, in its turn, a breakthrough in the Greek history of art.