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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:22

Veronese, The Family of Darius Before Alexander

Video transcript

it's opulent its large it's full of saturated color and it's kind of confusing it's quite confusing we're looking at a painting by the great Venetian painter Veronese he called the family of Darius before Alexander Darius was the ruler of the Persians the Persians had been at war with Greece and Alexander the Great that famous Greek general had finally conquered Darius and here is his family asking for mercy when Alexander conquered the Persians Darius the leader of the Persians escaped but his family was taken hostage and in this painting by Varanasi we see Darius's mother eating for mercy for his family and with her are Darius's wife behind her in gold and Doris's children no this was serious business because when one army conquered another generally the conquered would be killed could be raped could be enslaved it's a very serious moment indeed and da rhesus mother he's making a very serious mistake because instead of pleading for mercy with Alexander's actually addresses efest jaan Alexander's advisor but the courtly figure of Alexander steps forward and really smooths over the mistake that's right Alexander says her it's okay this is also Alexander no how does that make sense well it's saying it's okay this is my close friend this is my close advisor since my childhood a very generous gesture both toward his friend FST on and also toward dari as his mother saying it's okay this mistake it's understandable and so Alexander is being portrayed here not only as a brilliant military ruler but also as a diplomat also as somebody who is very much a courtly figure in a highest sense and those would have been values that would have been very important to the Venetians at this time to the pizanno family who a commission was painting from Varanasi but it's interesting that the initial confusion that we feel when we look at this painting who are all these figures is exactly a part of the narrative itself it is the confusion that is being represented that's right this is a grand painting on a grand scale and it is filled to capacity with other figures who are really unnecessary but give the painting a kind of complication and the function kind of anecdotally for example on the right side you don't need to have a dog in the painting and the dog looks like it is aggressive and it might attack those figures who are kneeling but it's being restrained behind the guard and this of course stands as a kind of illusion to the restraint that alexander himself is showing so let's walk up to this painting and really look at it closely because it's really beautiful so very Nazy has imbued the figures in the foreground with a kind of richness a kind of density that shows a brilliant coloration and brushwork well we see in primary colors of red and yellow and blue and then secondary colors of greens and oranges color is so much a part of very nice ease work and of the Venetians in general but it's interesting because when you look at the painting closely certainly see color certainly you see a kind of euro brushwork and you can see that especially in the children of Darius in for instance the white that highlights the blue and white clothing that they wear the line is also clearly important we see contours and drawing especially in the architecture in the background and it's almost as if those are sketches I mean you've got this beautiful architectural frieze in the background that contains even more figures up towards the top of the canvas but if you look at the extreme left side towards the background you can see these beautifully foreshortened horses and they are almost mere sketches and if you look closely everything in the painting is in motion we feel this drama happening at this moment we feel everybody reacting we have this sweeping diagonal from the lower left to the upper right that is the basis for the composition and so there's a real sense of confusion and activity and movement and the kind of theatricality here and we feel like we're observers just like the people that we see in the balustrade in the background you