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Pozzo, Glorification of Saint Ignatius, Sant'Ignazio

Video transcript

[Music] we're standing on a small circle of yellow stone in the middle of the floor of a nave of San Ignatius in Rome and we're looking up at a miraculous ceiling it really is miraculous as we look up we see the architecture that plasters the columns the colored marble of the nave walls continue up into the ceiling and it looks so real but we know that it's paint the transition between the actual stone architecture and the painted surface that seems to just rise up infinitely into the heavens is imperceptible I can't always make out where one stops and one begins no it's impossible even when the artist Pato is rendering figures that we know are simply paint for instance the angels there is a kind of veracity there's a kind of physicality even as they hover look for instance at the red angel that wing is simply coming towards us we know that the figures have to be paid because they're not actually flying around but it's almost impossible not to be absorbed into this illusion that we're looking up at Saint Ignatius being welcomed into heaven by Christ himself well this is the point that this erasure of the distinction between our physical world and the miraculous world of heaven this brings us into proximity with the divine in the most direct way so we're a heavenly miracle is appearing before us as though we are having a spiritual vision this is the counter-reformation the Jesuits are at the centre of the attempt by the Catholic Church to reclaim their primacy there were the defenders and the propagators of the Catholic faith right the idea of defending the faith against the Protestants at this moment and also areas of the world that were not Christian eyes and bringing them into the fold of the church enhancing the power of the church and in fact pots so the artist has really made that clear by representing the four great continents of earth Asia the Americas Europe and Africa and so this notion of the expansion of Catholicism to become this universal truth is central to this painting and that was really what loyal is intention was in founding the Jesuit Order what we have in this painting is a reminder of just how important it was to reassert the Catholic faith belief in the miraculous as we stand in the nave I almost feel my body rising toward the ceiling because as we look up we see figures who are also moving toward heaven and I think that's something that Baroque art always does whether we're looking at Caravaggio or Bernini are here with pot so is breaking down that barrier between our world and the world of the heaven lake in fact what you describe is expressed directly by the artists pot so in a letter where he details what the intent of this painting was he wrote about how he represented rays sent from heaven caught in a shield and scribed with the name of Jesus used to light the flames of divine love in a golden cauldron he used to be distributed by angels and on the opposite side of the vault avenging angels threatened those who resist the light of faith with divine wrath in the form of Thunderbolts and javelins and I think that this quote shows us the two sides of the counter-reformation one is to reaffirm the faith of those who believe and the other is to attack those who went against the church and just as the narrative of the painting describes the intention of the Jesuits the style of the painting is a beautiful description of the concerns of the Baroque look at this sense of energy the sense of Gautreaux Cala T the sense of movement the dynamism you were mentioning the avenging angel and look for instance at the diagonal of that javelin there's nothing in this painting that is static even God is full of movement that's absolutely true even the clouds are moving before us as that we were looking up into a real sky with wind and atmosphere and so the baroque borrows the naturalism of the high rent but activates it and puts it to a new purpose which is here the reaffirming of the Catholic faith we reached a natural endpoint that began with the invention of perspective and the illusion that perspective creates beginning with masaccio's holy trinity here we stand in one point in the church and that whole illusion comes together for us and merges the physical with the spiritual an important point of the art and the architecture is to blur the lines between reality and the miraculous and to make possible the divine in our world to make it seem as if we can pass easily from one to the other metamorphosis is central here the metamorphosis of the soul is this as we're presented through the metamorphosis of material so as we walk through the church after looking up at the ceiling I find myself questioning the reality of the space I'm walking through I start wondering if it too is an illusion you