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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:27

Video transcript

[Music] we're in st. Peter's Basilica and we're looking at a famous early Christian sarcophagus it's the tomb of Junius basses now it's a little complicated because what people generally see is the copy that the Vatican has in their Museum but we're in the Treasury and this is the actual sarcophagus and so Junius basses was a Roman prefect and around the mid 4th century right we know he had his position in 359 so we're looking at a very early moment soon after Constantine has made it legitimate to be a Christian in the Roman Empire and Constantine is in the process of in a way making Christianity or leading toward Christianity becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire which will happen in the end of the 300s so this is an early example then of a kind of openness and really a magnificent rendering of the iconography of the Christian tradition right and what's interesting is that it doesn't look the way that we expected to in a way because Christ is here in the center represented with probably Peter and Paul or two figures on either side of him it looks like likely Peter and Paul yes but he looks very youthful like a young philosopher teacher he's even holding a scroll in his hand and he's seated and frontal though not entirely frontal so I guess what I'm saying is that things that we normally associate with representations of Christ where he looks like an emperor who's older and he's got a beard here he's represented very youthful he's although he's seated and frontal he does have a kind of naturalism and movement to his body his left leg comes forward a little bit his head is slightly turned and he's got his foot above an image of a river god I was just interesting because it shows Christianity surmounting the old polytheistic traditions of the ancient Romans using the iconography of ancient Roman pagan art in a new Christian context I really am interested by the point you made earlier about Christ's not fulfilling the physical attributes that we come to expect and this is so early that in a sense those traditions hadn't yet developed exactly they hadn't yet been been really constructed and accepted so this is a very flexible moment right that iconography is being developed in here he looks much more like a pagan figure and that's certainly true because of the classical garb that he wears and it's interesting stylistically because this sculpture is really showing pretty high-pitched naturalism in terms of the rendering of the bodies the contrapposto that we see the figure standing in and even some of the emotional attributes of the figures there is a kind of naturalism although we see the beginnings of a kind of early Christian style there are some hints of what's to come the heads are a little bit too large for the bodies the bodies are starting to be a little bit on the stubby side so it's a very interesting transitional moment we see some other scenes from the Bible and we're seeing early expressions of it here but these are ways of representing these scenes that will become very familiar to us and so and also other Old Testament scenes that would have prefigured the events in Christ's life right so that idea of saying that events in the Old Testament such as the sacrifice of Isaac prefigured Christ's own sacrifice for the salvation of mankind so that way of saying that Christ's life is a fulfillment of the prophecy and the events of the Old Testament what we're witnessing here is the invention of a new economic as to the invention of a new visual language for the telling of these critical stories what I'm also noticing is just how deeply carved it is it is essentially a relief sculpture but the figures are very in very very high relief some of them seem to be entirely separate from the marble ground and I love these columns with capitals and bringing together of the classical and the of the Christian [Music]