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Video transcript

the newt had been off-limits for a thousand years in the Middle Ages the only opportunity artists had to paint or sculpt the nude was to do Adam and Eve but with the Renaissance we have this renewed interest in the human body and artists looking for opportunities to paint it what we're looking at is Andre Montana's very small painting of Saint Sebastian it's in the quinces disclosures Museum in Vienna and it's this tall thin painting that is completely improbable and in some ways it is just an elaborate ruse to be able to paint the human body but of course Montaigne was also deeply in love with all things classical and both of those things are really in evidence here look at all the fragments of sculpture an architecture that comes from his study of ancient Rome and of course the figure of Saint Sebastian himself looks like an ancient Greek or Roman sculpture according to legend Saint Sebastian was in the employ of the ancient Roman Emperor Diocletian who didn't know that Sebastian was a Christian apparently Sebastian came to the aid of two other Christians who had been found out and therefore his own Christianity was revealed and he was ordered to be executed when he refused to renounce his Christianity and so he was shot with arrows but he survived that attack right and was later clubbed to death it's easy for us in the 21st century to forget how little was known about the human body what knowledge had once existed from ancient Greece and Rome had largely been lost here was a generation that was rediscovering the body for the first time in a thousand years you couldn't go and buy a book on the net I mean you couldn't look something up on the web this was a time when rediscovering the body meant an investigation of the body from scratch with very little knowledge left from antiquity and the understanding of the body in the ancient world like contrapposto is just being rediscovered in this century and look at the way in which the s-curve of the body is accentuated here we can really see an artist who is studying ancient sculpture in fact one could probably argue that the arrows themselves almost function as diagramming a lie means that help us see the shifting axes of the body but there are also funny anachronism here things are disjointed in terms of time Saint Sebastian is being martyred by an ancient Roman Emperor at a time when ancient Rome is at the height of its power and yet what the artist is showing us here is ancient Roman architecture in ruins the way it looked in Montaigne his own time and he's clearly relishing the beauty of those ruins as ruins it's as if the faith of Christianity has outlived the mighty Roman Empire right which lays in ruins around the feet of the same here's an artist who is in part responsible for creating the art that we know of as the early Renaissance and characteristic of that moment we see somebody who is giving us as much visual information as possible look at the precision even of the buildings in the extreme distance that beautiful atmospheric perspective that careful delineation of form of mass right modeling so we've got a sense of the three dimensionality of the body the light coming from the left we can see Montana's use of linear perspective and the tiles on the floor in a way this has everything we expect of the Renaissance this is bringing together those fragments from antiquity that we're just being rediscovered this is trying to place these figures in a world that we can occupy and a vast landscape perhaps we see the archers retreating on a road in the background and a whole city that looks very much like a ancient Roman city here's an artist that is central to the northern Italian tradition somebody who is working in Venice working in Padua understands what's taking place in Florence and it's just such an exemplar of this reinvention of ancient humanism you