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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:28

Video transcript

(piano music) Man: We're in Santa Cecilia in Rome looking at the ruins of an extraordinary fresco by Cavallini from the late thirteenth century. Woman: We're above the entrance to the church and we're looking directly at a fresco that in the late thirteenth century people would have looked up at and it's a scene of the last judgment. Man: Right so this would have been on the wall opposite the altar and this would have been the last thing you saw as you were leaving the church. It's a monumental fresco. You see Christ in the center in a mandorla, that is a kind of divine emanation or halo that surrounds his entire body. He sits here as judge over the souls that have lived. Woman: And he exhibits for us very clearly the wounds of the crucifixion. We can see holes from the nails in his feet and his hands, and the wound in his side that is bleeding. A reminder of Christ's suffering. His return now is judge of mankind. Man: He is framed by angels on either side and beyond that we can see the apostles, six on each side. Between the apostles and Christ there were two other figures. You have Mary on Christ's right and you have John the Baptist on Christ's left. Woman: And we're so clearly at just before the time of Jato in the way these prefigure what Jato will do in the very early years of the fourteenth century. Man: Right. This is known as Roman realism. He's clearly borrowing from the Byzantine but there is a kind of unprecedented interest in creating a sense of naturalism as figures of our world. Woman: That can be seen in how heavily the figures are all modeled. There is not thin elongated forms created by line, but really monumental forms created by the use of light and dark. Man: You can see that use of light and dark very consistently in the furniture as well, and the light makes it very believable. The line is drawn so that there is a precocious attempt at a kind of perspective. Not true linear perspective of course, but something that is very much trying to explain how these angles function in space as one looks up from below. Woman: That's right, especially evident in the seats that the apostles sit in. They angle inward toward the center. So it's as though they really are thinking about us as the viewer in the center looking up at Christ. Man: There is a kind of sensitivity in terms of rhythm and especially color in this painting that is so beautiful. Look at the apostles. You have alternations of violet blues, red blues, grey blues, green against a warmer kind of grey moving across so that there is never a repeat of the color, just beautiful. Woman: And we get a sense of a three-dimensional body underneath that drapery. If you look at the apostles, we can see the drapery pulling around their bellies, around their shoulders, in the folds around their arms. Giving us a sense of monumental figures that really haven't been seen since ancient Rome. Man: It's interesting to think about this move from the spiritual rendering that is a kind of symbolized body to one that is dimensional, one that takes up space, and this idea that there is a proximity between the way in which these figures are rendered and the bodies that we inhabit. Woman: And the kind of human emotions that we feel. If you look at the figure of Saint John the Baptist with his hands clasped in prayer, the way that he moves his eyebrows together and there are wrinkles in his forehead and he looks toward Christ. There is a real sense of individuality to these figures and a sense of human emotion as they look toward Christ. Man: But these are still clearly coming out of the Byzantine tradition. If you look at the face of Christ we might be looking at a mosaic from Ravenna from Constantinople. Woman: That's right. This moment at the end of the 1200s, the beginnings of the 1300s when we have this imminent naturalism. Man: Of course Catallini does not know that is coming. That's our hindsight. Nevertheless, we can see this kind of painting along with the sculptures of Pisano or perhaps the work of Cimabue as we're beginning to move into what will eventually become the Renaissance. (piano music)