El Greco paints Dominic in white and black because that is the habit and the color emphasizes his hands, which are centered in the portrait. How easy it is to count the fingers. Death is imminent, and respect and attention are due a priest because he places his hands on the dying.
The longer you look at the painting, the more it appears as if there are two people there, one in white and one in black. Does Dominic contemplate his own death, or does he recall every person, not numbers, in his life? The ivory corpus, maybe elephant tusk, is quite distressed.
“El Greco’s style, highly charged and hypnotic, was well suited to the aims of the Counter-Reformation. In the face of Protestant revolt, the Catholic Church sought to reform its practices and reinforce belief in its doctrines.
“Spain put its vast resources—expanded by conquests in the New World—at the service of the church, and Toledo, because it was the seat of the archbishop, played an active role.
“The Council of Trent … explicitly recognized the importance of religious art.
“El Greco, whose patrons were primarily learned churchmen, responded with intelligent and expressive presentations of traditional and newly affirmed Catholic beliefs….”
National Gallery of Art, Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues, Washington, D.C.
America is a puritanical society lacking a respect and appreciation of the body.