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we're looking at the rote Ganpati ah of devastating image that dates from the early 14th century so this is the late Gothic period the latter part of the Middle Ages here we see a great example of the spirituality the kind of mysticism that emerges in the later Middle Ages and I think we really see that reflected here in this gruesomeness it's a very emotional image here we have Mary the mother of God holding her dead son on her lap and so palpably dead so gruesome Lee so violent a death those gaping wounds in his hands and his feet the gaping wound in his side that three dimensional blood that not only drips out explodes out of the body even the sharpness of the crown of thorns we can feel those thorns that not only emerge out toward us but also went into Christ's head and we see the painted blood dripping down his face it so we call this the Pieta but if we're thinking of the narrative of The Passion of Christ this is the lamentation this is when Mary laments the death of her dead son the lamentation from Giottos arena Chapel is something that we often look at and refer to for Italian art of the similar period but this has no other figures around were just confronted with Mary and Christ and so the storytelling element that narrative element is diminished here and the artist is asking us to focus on this particular interaction between Mary and her dead son but something that I think is very interesting is Mary's response when I look at Mary here I see that she's got a furrowed brow I see anger in that face I see confusion and normally when we see representations of Mary in this late Gothic period Mary is the Queen of Heaven she's this divine or semi divine figure who has this foreknowledge that Christ's death is going to be temporary but when I look at Mary's face here I don't see any of that foreknowledge there's a sense of how did the world go so why that God made flesh was crucified what you're describing there emphasizes Mary's humanities and earlier medieval representations show them as more distant and divine figures this is a reflection of some changing ideas at the end of the Middle Ages we would associate this with maybe st. Francis of Assisi and with a few other medieval Saints who are interested in mysticism they're interested in feeling their religion and so they spend a lot of time contemplating the crucifixion and the passion to emotionally connect to those things to enhance their religious belief and this statue and other pietas like it are really an outgrowth of this mystical idea this idea that you can connect with God on a very emotional level by stripping away those narrative elements we're left with this very stark image were left with this concentration of emotion it is interesting to compare this to giotto's madonna and child from about the same period where we have an image of Mary as the Queen of Heaven a figure who does not feel human emotions she's above that she's transcended that here your emerging interest that we see in the tre chendo in the 1300s in spiritual figures who are more like us and therefore we have empathy with them we can see traces of color here we see some of the red from the blood it looks like green paint on the drapery but we have to imagine back to these colors being much more vivid we also see some damage in Mary's head we see some wormholes this is a wooden sculpture and we don't have a tremendous amount of wooden sculpture that survives from the Middle Ages so this is a really special example because it retains its paint but the paint is something that helps to bring the sculpture alive and the sense of the image becoming alive is important to this mystical sense of visions in the later Middle Ages where religious images were there to bring the moment alive in the mind of the viewer and all of that blood that we see dripping from the crown of thorns over Christ's face that's really meant to intensify this sense that as you physically stand up the statue it's as though you're seeing back through time to this event and then feeling the emotions I also think about this on an altar surrounded by a painted altarpiece by other painted sculptures by perhaps frescoes on the ceilings or walls of the church by priests wearing beautiful liturgical vestments we have to imagine this within a visually rich ecclesiastical environment and also imagine the sounds of the church of prayers being said of mass being said and when we imagine that whole environment it's easier to imagine that kind of visionary experience taking place when I think of this in terms of an original location a lot of these were present in German nunneries I try to imagine the kind of emotional journey that the viewer would experience and spending time with this image kind of the initial shock and horror through to maybe feelings of empathy and maybe even eventually feeling God suffered so badly he understands what I suffer you
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