Onassis Foundation buys El Greco painting

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – A 17th-century El Greco painting that recently was purchased by a foundation set up under the will of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis went on display at the National Art Gallery in Athens on Wednesday.

The Coronation of the Virgin
was bought for an undisclosed sum this summer by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, said its president, Anthony Papadimitriou. He said the seller was an unidentified U.S. dealer.

Papadimitriou said the oval shaped oil painting will be displayed at the National Gallery for the next two years before being moved to a new cultural center the foundation is building in Athens.

“This is a unique work from Greco’s mature period,” he said. It is one of only nine paintings by the Cretan-born El Greco displayed in Greece.

Born in 1541, El Greco – whose real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos – worked in Italy and Spain. His art, with elongated figures, vibrant colors and a disregard for the classical rules of painting, was prized during his lifetime but later fell out of favor. It regained strong acclaim in the 20th century.

Gallery director Marina Lambraki-Plaka said the painting was part of El Greco’s personal collection from his workshop in Spain, where the painter lived from 1577 until his death in 1614.

It was made as a study for a large-scale painting on the same theme, in a church in the Spanish town of Illescas. Lambraki-Plaka said the work appeared at auction in 1913 and passed through various hands before entering the collection of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.

A report by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime alleged last year that the late Marcos illegally amassed between $5 billion and $10 billion before he was ousted. When the dictator was overthrown in 1986, the painting was auctioned on behalf of the U.S. government and bought by its previous owner.

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