[, Music ] for Good Friday. 00:00:13
I want to transport you all to the magical city of Florence.
You can hear the bells of the Duomo donging in the distance.
You can see the hills of Fiesole over the river Arno there and, as you cross, the ancient medieval bridge of the Ponte Vecchio to the south side of the river.
You pass a little piazza on the left off, the back of which is a hidden away.
Little church, which is not often opened and as you enter the church, there's a darkened chapel on your right, so you put a euro into the cashbox and suddenly you are confronted by the strangest and perhaps the most intense painting in the whole of Florence.
You see of vortex of lurid colour, there is an extreme sense of destabilization.
You don't know where to look.
It takes your eyes a moment or two to focus on the matter in hand, and then you don't know where to focus, and this is just as it should be.
The artist iacopo Pontormo was not only painting this in the extremely troubled times of an Italy that had been shaken to the core by Martin Luther's, Reformation and also a Florence which had been uprooted by decades of civil unrest.
But also here he's depicting the day.
Christ died, so the Bible of course tells us that Christ was crucified and he was then taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb of joseph of arimathea, and we can fully understand these scenes in visual iconography, like this Jellico in a deep position, you Would expect to see a cross? You would expect to see ladders Nicodemus, helping Christ down from the cross.
John, the Evangelist at the foot of the cross Mary Magdalene there, as well with her loose hair, kissing, Christ's feet and the Virgin Mary in blue, who is praying sometimes also seen swooning.
We also understand the entombment.
This is Rafael's gorgeous entombment by the way Raphael died on Good Friday in 15-20, so this is an anniversary of his death as well.
So here we understand this weighty, dead Christ, who's being carried to the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
This is a classic work of the high Renaissance.
We've got depth, we've got perspective, we've got musculature, we understand the physicality of these bodies, as well as an intense emotion within this painting. 00:03:10
But when we look back to that Pontormo, there is well there's no clarity here. 00:03:15
It's a struggle to understand we're completely thrown into a confusion, and maybe this is how the disciples felt when Christ was crucified when Christ was taken down from the cross.
So so what is going on here? Isn't entombment? Is it a deep position? Who can we identify? We can see this big figure in blue is the Virgin Mary she's, leaning back as though falling into some kind of faint, and you can see that she supported by these two women on either side of her. 00:04:01
There is the most ghastly depiction of misery on her face as she's reaching out for her son Christ.
Of course, we can identify Christ to whom Mary is reaching out towards, but where is this weighty solidity that we are used to in release and high Renaissance paintings? Where is the depth? Where is the perspective? If you look at Christ, he seems to be completely weightless.
You can see those figures at the bottom and that they are angels are kind of on their tiptoes. 00:04:40
There is no weight to Christ at all, and there is certainly no depth.
All of these figures are shoved right up to the picture plane, there's simply no escaping them.
It's incredibly claustrophobic and the figures are elongated and strange and there's some areas that we simply can't make any sense of at all.
Look at this kind of mix of hands in the center of the painting.
We can identify Christ's left hand, but whose are those hands that are holding it.
It's not the angel on the left, otherwise he would have two right hands.
So canto mo is deliberately trying to confuse us here and then compositionally speaking, there is no focal point.
Our eye is not guided anywhere.
We are not used to this.
If we think about the development of Renaissance and high Renaissance paintings, this is the kind of thing we're used to how we can read a composition, clay according to depth and perspective.
Whether it's something like this that we see in the Last Supper by Leonardo or something like this - a solid triangular, stable composition like this Raphael painting, but instead here we've got this strange hive of energy and Colour, and where is that stabilizing factor? What is the center of the painting? Well, if we literally look to the center, we find the bare and empty land of the Virgin Mary of the mother and Christ, and for me this is what this painting is all about. 00:06:42
Is there a hint of a deep position? Perhaps there is, if you look at the top of the painting you can see there is an angel with an arm pushing out to the right that green arm, and that is balanced by the cloud on the left.
And this suggests a cross.
Perhaps there is some sense of a deep position here.
Could it be a lamentation? We have no tomb, but it looks like Christ is going down into a dark area at the bottom left of the paintings and maybe there's a hint of a lamentation.
Could it be a pietà? Christ is not on Mary's lap, but he wants you look at the position of Christ.
You can see that two or three seconds ago he was on her lap.
This painting is a painting about grief, it is about Mary's grief.
Christ has just been taken from her lap and is going to be placed in the tomb, so why the crazy colors? Now, when I was working in Italy, the student of one of my colleague said that when she fainted, because she fainted quite a lot, the world went into Technicolor, and could this possibly be what Pontormo was playing at or was he trying to disturb us with this Uranus and the colors are intensified by the cool calm, geometrically focused architecture of Brunelleschi's, early Renaissance style.
Perhaps Pontormo was also responding to the crazy color scheme of Michelangelo's sister sealing by this point.
In the 1520's, when Pontormo created this work, the high Renaissance had climaxed Leonardo had created the Last Supper.
The most perfect of Renaissance paintings, Michelangelo, had totally aced it with the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Raphael had created the most brilliant high Renaissance, portraits and paintings that effortlessly combined.
The philosophies of the Ancients with Christianity, one of the key goals of the Renaissance movement.
So where do the artists of the 1520's go? How can they improve on what Leonardo Michelangelo Raphael have done? Well, they can't so they need to change tact, and it's artists, like contour man, working within a politically unstable environment, who begin that change and the style that they change into is what is today known as mannerism.
Now this painting is all about grief, but do not forget to check in again on Easter Sunday and you'll see that life gets a lot better.
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