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Video transcript

we're in the National Gallery in London and we're looking at relatively early painting by the great Venetian master Titian and the title of this painting translated from the Latin means don't touch me and these are the words that Christ says to Mary Magdalene when she's found that his tomb is empty this gets right to the heart of the Christian story of the mystery of the resurrection so Christ is crucified Christ is entombed three days later his tomb is found empty he's been resurrected Mary sees the empty tomb turns to the first person she sees presumably somebody that she thinks is a gardener and says what have they done with his body he calls her name and she recognizes this man as Christ and then she reaches out to embrace him to touch him of course she's seen him crucified so this is a miraculous vision for her and she reaches out to touch him but he withdraws and says don't touch me or it's time to let go of me it's time not to hold on to my physical presence here on earth I've risen I'm not here anymore in the same way that you knew me before well look at how Titian has communicated that idea in his composition Mary Magdalene is on the ground she's a diagonal but she feels in some ways bound horizontally to the earth and Christ is vertical is upright but there's a gentle sweep to his body a really kind of elegant turn as he almost reaches over her as you said pulls away but also arches over her in a kind of very protective move and his body is echoed by the tree which leads our eye even further up and reminds us that he will soon become one with God in heaven there's something ethereal there the incredibly graceful and elegant pose that Titian is rendered Christ in it's as though we can almost feel her reaching out and almost like a ghost her hand passes through his body his immateriality how implicit in the pose of his body look at the way that the shroud which is now worn almost like a cape around his neck is pulled back by his left arm and creates a kind of void an area of shadow his volume of space that is empty and does create that sense of the noncorporeal yeah almost a ghostly feeling there and in that pose of Mary Magdalene as she is on the ground leaning up and reaching out her hand you feel her desire to see him again to embrace him to hold him to feel his physical presence and you see in his face a kind of concern for her he looks down at her and there really is a kind of empathy for her and all of this is located in this gorgeous lush landscape it reminds us that it was quite fashionable in Venice at this time to place religious scenes within beautiful fanciful environments so that one could meditate on the biblical moment that was being described but also to allow in situ travel through this really beautiful landscape what a landscape it is look at the way in which that atmospheric perspective creates that cool luminous deep space and I love the way that the Sun is setting and you have the light coming through those clouds and apparently the colors were once more vivid especially the greens which have turned to brown because of the paint that Titian use that's right there was a copper oxide that has lost some of its vibrancy nevertheless the painting of his Lu's it's beautiful it's full of gesture and this complex human interaction that takes this biblical this ancient story and makes it vivid and accessible to us even today