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Video transcript

we're in the National Gallery in London and we're looking at a painting that's called the Wilton diptych and it's called the Wilton diptych because of the family that owned it until the early 20th century when it was acquired by the National Gallery it's a diptych which means that it's two panels that are hinged so this could be closed and the inner paintings would have been protected it's made to be a portable object that could be opened and then used as aid in prayer and it was owned by someone very important it was owned and made for the King of England King Richard the second it's really rare painting and it's gorgeous you can see it's been used a lot but the inside panels at least are in really good condition on the left you see four figures against a broad gold grey helm that if you look at very closely has been decorated it's been told that is a punch has been used and hammered into it to create this very fine lace like pattern and see tendrils and vines very intricate the three men are saying Edmund on the Left saying Edward the Confessor in the middle Saint John the Baptist on the right standing and the king himself Richard the second kneeling each of these figures can be identified by their attributes st. Edmund carrying an arrow that he was martyred with Edward carrying a ring that's associated with a miracle that he performed and on the right st. John holding a lamb and then down below of course the king he's wearing his personal emblem a white stag or a deer on a chain of pearls and you can see that both in the cloth that he's wearing as well as around his neck three of these four figures were kings of England they all wear crowns st. Edmund and Edward the Confessor were both especially pious Kings that were made Saints Richard ii is shown here very piously kneeling and looking across the diptych where we see the scene of heavens or gardens paradise well it's a crowded paradise too and spectacularly beautiful all of this is in a style that we call the International gothic and the figures are very elegant so we have the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child and then surrounding those two figures this is wonderful group of angels one our historian is suggested that there are eleven angels because richard ii was 11 when he became the king of england so let's go back to the king and what's happening because we have the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child holding up his foot as though to show us where the nails will go during the crucifixion Christ pulls away from her toward the king and so you have this relationship across the diptych between king richard ii and marian christ christ seems to be reaching toward this banner held by an angel the angel looks up at christ and at the top we see flag of Saint George and Saint George was the patron saint of England and at the top of that banner is an orb and a recent cleaning has revealed that that orb contains an image of an island floating in the center of a sea of silver and a little castle on that island actually in a ship in the sea a couple of hundred years later Shakespeare wrote in his play about Richard the second of this little world this precious stone set in the silver sea referring to England now let's be clear about the chronology here this painting is much earlier than Shakespeare and so we have no idea if Shakespeare would have seen this if they were both referring to a common source or if there's any relationship whatsoever but it's very tantalizing the idea of the King getting his right to rule from the Virgin Mary and from Christ this divine right to rule England well look who richard ii has had himself flanked by kings that represent a kind of piety a kind of religious precedent that he is modeling himself on and of course a special relationship not only with the Virgin Mary but also with John the Baptist in each the inner panels figures glance towards the other they are interacting even they exist in separate worlds and separate realms and Richards presence can really be felt in the right panel each of those figures with the exception of Christ is adorned by the emblem of richard ii and you can see that white stag on the left breast of each of those angels there is this divine Rite that is being expressed his authority comes directly from heaven but it's also as if the angels are somehow part of his court or his retinue absolutely the entire painting is just fabulously decorative not only do you have this wonderful garden below but look at the angel's wings and if you look very closely at the gold halo around Christ you can see that the artist scratched in a motif of the crown of thorns so both in the way that Mary holds out Christ's foot and in that reference to the crown of thorns we have the idea of salvation through Christ's sacrifice on the cross there's also a tremendous contrast that's drawn between the violence of the crown of thorns and the crown that the Angels wear crowns of rose blossoms it's just a spectacular painting let's take a look at the exterior panels these are large and simpler images on the right you see the white stag the emblem of Richard ii you can see that the stag has around his neck a crown and then hanging from that is a chain and look at those antlers that have almost disappeared against the gold ground but are tooled differently so you can just make them out and he's in a field of flowers and rosemary which was also part of his personal emblem on this opposite panel you have the emblems of France of England France you can see the fleur-de-lis England you can just barely make out what had once been a stack of three lions and you can see that on the right side of the shield on the left side you can see a cross with five Birds and then there's a lion above that the outside panels have not survived as well as the inside panels which makes sense well they were meant to protect the inside and they've done a good job this is painted with so much of ultramarine blue which would have been such an expensive paint to use and so much gold here the entire object feels precious it feels like a gem you