His first major commission was however not for Madrid but for Toledo where humanistic clients entrusted him with the decoration of the church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo. He made nine paintings for that church between July 1577 and September 1579.
Born in Crete, El Greco is probably of Greek Orthodox religion. His art is nevertheless acclaimed by the Catholics of Toledo who appear to be remarkably tolerant despite the prescriptions of the Council of Trent for a strict interpretation of the Scriptures.
The major work of this Spanish debut is El Espolio, an oil on canvas 285 x 173 cm made for the sacristy of the cathedral of Toledo. In the midst of a dense crowd, Christ is stripped of his cloak. The presence in the foreground of the Three Maries, invented by the artist, nevertheless creates a small scandal.
On July 6 in London, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 64 x 93 cm painted by El Greco at the same time on the theme of the farewell of Christ to the Virgin. Christ is pointing his finger to show the way to Jerusalem. This scene missing in the Bible was considered a necessary episode by some monks of the Middle Ages wanting to complete the biography of Christ. It is estimated £ 4M, lot 34.
The two figures are seen half-length in a horizontal composition that was bold for its time. They do not need to look at each other to express an intense emotion : Christ thinks about his Mission and Mary knows that no argument will prevent his leave. The realism of the faces and the beauty of the colors mark an influence from Titian. The star shaped halo is bright.
In Madrid the respect of the dogma continues to prevail over the artistic quality. El Greco did not succeed in working for the king. The Reformation was probably considered less threatening in Toledo than in Madrid. Constrained to a provincial career, he now settles permanently in Toledo. There is no real evidence of a conversion of El Greco to Catholicism.