El Greco, the well-known renaissance painter, developed a very particular style in his maturity. Having been based in Spain from 1577 until his death, he focused on doing grandiose paintings with religious themes.
One of his most famous themes was «The prayer of Jesus in the garden». El Greco painted several versions of this scene from the end of the 1580s, in two formats: in landscape first, and vertically after 1600. Within this area, at least six examples are known of. One is preserved in the church of Santa María de Andújar, in Jaén (oil on canvas, 169 x 112 cm). It is considered to be of the highest quality and probably the first of its kind.
In every version of this painting, El Greco portrayed several olive trees, which he always considered to represent eternal vitality. He showed the different stages of the life of this tree. On the one hand, there were wrinkled trunks and little foliage, which indicated old age, or twilight. Thi is a faithful reflection of the main scene that represented the last moments of Jesus. On the other hand, he painted an olive tree trunk which was previously cut that sprouts a new and youthful branch. This represents, in this case, the sacrifice of Jesus and his later resurrection, representing eternal life.
Olive trees were always present in the life of “El Greco,” as he was born and raised in Crete, where he lived until he was 26 years old. Later on, he moved to Italy, where he resided for 10 years until he traveled and settled down definitively in Toledo until his death in 1614. Therefore, he always remained in olive producing countries – in the third, second and first place olive oil producing countries on the planet.