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Video transcript

we're in the goo Melda gallery in Berlin looking at really spectacular panel painting by Giotto this is the entombment of Mary and it shows the Virgin Mary tenderly being lowered into her tomb but it also simultaneously shows her spirit rendered as an infant being cradled by Christ in heaven it was made for the Church of the onion Dior All Saints Church in Florence and it's certainly one of the jewels of their collection it's a wonderful representation of the qualities that made John oh such an important artist in the early 14th century in the late 1200 the tradition that Giotto is coming out of is a Byzantine tradition where the figures are elongated where there's an emphasis on gold and patterning where the figures seem really distant from us and there's no real interest in their bodies as existing three-dimensionally in space but that's exactly what Giotto gives us figures that have a sense of volume of mass of solidity of gravity but more than that you've got a kind of psychological intensity and interaction that makes these figures seem as if they are autonomous in the world so let's take for example Saint Peter who's engrossed in reading and if we look at the robe that he wears we can see the shadow has moved from light to dark to indicate the folds of the drapery and a sense of the figure being round in three dimensional you can see the way in which the figures elbow is pressing into his waist gathering that cloth creating those folds and there's really a sense then of the reality of that moment something that we recognize as our own elbows have pressed into our sides look at how gently she's being lowered into the tomb and the look on the face of the Apostle who lowers her body looking into her eyes so lovingly the intimacy between them can be seen again between the spirit of Mary in the body of the child and Christ mmm their faces are close they look at each other and it's also a kind of inversion of the image of Mary and Christ that we usually see where Mary is shown holding Christ as a child and look at the way that the representation of Mary sold the infant has its light drapery swirl around it it's just a beautiful kind of tender rendering by the artist just to the right of Christ you see a figure bending over slightly that's st. Andrew who's sprinkling holy water on the dead body of Christ mother but perhaps my favorite figure is just to the right of that you can see in back of the angels who were holding tall candles as a figure in a kind of yellow white gold his cheeks are puffed out and if you look closely in his right hand he's holding high a sensor that is he's distributing incense and it seems as if he's trying to blow it towards Mary just to the right another angel has its mouth open as though she's speaking and two angels just to the right of that seem to be engaged in conversation so while this image is very formal and hierarchical with Christ in the center larger than all the figures it's at the same time informal and natural that sense of the natural comes across so well in the conversation between those angels the angel who stands in front look at the way in which the thumbs of that angel are hooked into its belt into its pockets there is this sort of wonderful sense of total informality there in fact that angel also looks like she's about to speak this is a painting about Mary leaving the physical realm and becoming spiritual but it's this kind of intimacy this kind of detail of individual actions through which Giotto creates this fabulous sense of reality