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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:57

Video transcript

we're in the Louvre and we're looking at Caravaggio's painting the death of the Virgin from 1605 1606 is a very large painting and it's quite dark Caravaggio is known for painting in the dark manner but this is an especially dark painting it actually might need to be cleaned maybe we see that dark tin abruzzo background and the figure is very very close to us but we don't see anything that we might expect to see in a painting of the Virgin Mary's death normally we might expect to see her being assumed into heaven or angels receiving her in heaven and typical of Caravaggio he's created a spiritual scene but brought it totally down to earth and used a very everyday language he depicted the Virgin Mary herself looks like she could be a contemporary Romans she doesn't look particularly spiritual aside from the faint halo which we can barely make out around her head her hair is undone her front of her dress is coming open her feet are bare which was really indecent the priest at the time said she looked like Caravaggio had modeled her on a prostitute had been dragged out of the river hardly an appropriate mob in fact for the Virgin Mary in fact the monks they rejected the painting because of that rumour so the painting is down to earth it is in a sense the Catholic stories brought into our world in the most direct way and if you look at the scale of the painting and the way in which that young woman whose morning in the foreground bends down she seems to be in our space we could reach over to that copper basin that is just at her feet and seems to be just at ours as well I think Caravaggio is really intentionally left a space open for us in the circle of mourners who surround her if you look at them they're obviously the apostles but Caravaggio has let the light fall on perhaps the most unflattering aspects of their features in a way that I think is very typical of Caravaggio and his interest in the everyday in the common and the low but that's not to say that he's not a master of composition if you look at that wonderful swash of red cloth above the way that it frames beautifully and elegantly the scene but it also creates a kind of arcing curve that is repeated in those bald heads which actually also sort of reverse and lead us down to the Virgin Mary her body lays across at a diagonal or reminder that were no longer in the Renaissance but we're looking at a more activated composition that is very much typical of the Baroque her arm creates a different kind of diagonal as it moves towards us and you have that incredible broken wrist that then leads us down to the woman below her I think it's almost as if Caravaggio was suggesting that we should be like this young woman before us bent over in sorrow for the death of the Virgin I was noticing the hands the hands of the Apostle in gold that hand that's for sure wonderful isn't it the figure below him who's got his head in his hands the figure next to the man and gold his sweeping his rubbing his eyes the other figure next to him who props his head up with his hand and then down to the Virgin Mary whose arm is foreshortened and her hand hangs down but the other hand her right hand looks as though it was sort of flopped down on her chest and as you said we can really sense that this is indeed a dead body there's no sense of spiritual rebirth or salvation we almost feel rigor mortis setting in here look at the way that her right hand the ring finger is tucked under the middle thing in a kind of haphazard way that no living person would allow to happen it's as though Caravaggio is completely rejecting the elegance of the high Renaissance to intentionally give us something difficult and almost ugly and something that is of our world this embrace of the spiritual through our world