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Painting in central Italy

Video transcript

looking at a very large panel painting by para della Francesca of the baptism of Christ this is a typical subject that we see a lot but not a typical treatment Piero is one of those Renaissance artists that I think the modern era has loved in part because of the emphasis on geometry and kind of abstraction of space and form he really stands out as having a really unique style in the early Renaissance it's defined by a kind of stillness of the figures a kind of quietness it has all of the characteristics of an ideal moment this is the moment literally the moment when John allows the water to pour from that bowl onto Christ's head and would be that moment when the Holy Spirit in the form of the Dove appears John is so ever so gently in tentatively pouring that water over Christ because of course Christ asked John to baptize him and John at first refused and Christ insisted because Johnson no you should you should baptize me the Angels on the left look equally concerned and there is a kind of tentative Ness if you look at the focus in John's eyes the sort of tentativeness that's expressed in his left hand yes oh yeah absolutely and you can see that in the hands of the Angels as well there's a kind of stillness and sense of linearity to the figures Christ occupies the exact center of the composition directly under the Dove he stands in a lovely contra pasta with his hands in prayer there is a really strict geometry you have the verticality that you already mentioned but not only those were the bilateral symmetry of Christ's body in the center of the canvas but of John being quite some straight of the angels very erect the tree actually all the trees and then there's a series of perfect horizontal look at the way that John's belt continues the movement of the man who's taking off his shirt to the right moves across Christ's waist and picks up the belt of the middle angel so you have a kind of perfect horizontal that moves across that's echoed by the horizontality of the Dove whose line is continued by the cloud and then there were a series of circles the painting itself is an arch but that arch of that circles picked up and continued by the arc of the top of the cloth that covers Christ's waist and then by John's hand an arm and even by the sort of the line that's created as the man pulls his shirt over his head so that you've got really the sort of continued negative arc or the bottom of the arc of the circle and this love of geometry we know that perspective was something that Piero also was really interested in and where the treatise about this interest in the mathematical foundations of beauty and harmony is something that we really see very broadly in the early Renaissance I think that there's an additional kind of peculiarities which has to do with the placement clearly this is not the middle east the hill town that we see just below Christ's elbow is clearly of Tuscany and maybe even where where Piero was found which was Borgo son suppose that's right but we have a reference to the River Jordan in back of Christ which is in and of itself a sort of peculiar almost just minimized and abstracted into a little stream that almost seems to stop as if it's a little pathway actually going back and kind of reflective pathway it is a kind of intentionality here and a kind of formality that I think is very appealing in the 21st century you