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Video transcript

we're looking here at Roger van der Weyden's deposition dated two 1435 it's a very large painting it is about seven feet tall and eight and a half feet wide representing Christ being removed from the cross that's what deposition means right he's being deposed or removed from the cross and they're about to place him in his mother's lap the Virgin Mary who's fainted from grief at the crucifixion so this is one of the standard moments when artists represent the life of Christ right and so after this might be the lamentation and then they into meant exam the resurrection that follows yeah um and in a way we could talk about this image as a typical Flemish painting from the early to mid 1400s yeah it looks very obviously Northern Renaissance to me it's got that yeah this heavy very heavy complicated angular folds of drapery that we see on Mary and some also the figures at the far ends the paper like angular folds rather elongated figures that are crammed into a small space those figures are about life-size not so that that gold embroidery on the figure just to the right of Christ you know the way that there's that interest in the light shining on that metallic embroidery is very northern rendering of texture especially as it's his first active my wire the fur collar the faces the hair the fabric everything has this meticulous almost microscopic attention to detail and texture that's typical of a northern pant even those plants down at the bottom right and so carefully observe yeah but also you this would not be mistaken for anyone but Vanderheiden because even though those are all general characteristics of Flemish art from the period there are some things that he does that are quite different from other contemporary right we don't see that deep space that we see for example in Van Eyck in the Ghent Altarpiece exactly van der Weyden's compositions are usually confined to a very very shallow space that really pushes the figures right up against the front of the picture plane truly Hans's the dramatic and the emotional emotional inequality and then of course that goes hand-in-hand with the very emotional behavior of the people in his Manning's oftentimes the Flemish painters painted people who looked not so emotional that van divided instead gives them great emotional intensity like we see in this figure of one of the Mary's who is crying her nose is red there are tears coming down here you can really talk about the attention to the effects of light as the light reflects also off of but also refracts through the tears that are flowing down or chica someone once brought to my attention the tear that's at the very corner of her mouth and as you're looking at that it almost looks like it's about to go into her mouth and as you're looking at it it's almost as if you can taste right a tear a slight you want to put your tongue over there together it really helps you to empathize it makes you feel like you're there in front of these does the idea exactly as in devotion and look at that tiny little pin holding her headdress and also noticed that before the way you can still see all the creases that have been ironed into white Y brocade they've loved to do that those creases in the fabric it's fabulous absolutely so all of these things help differentiate it in a way and then speaking about this particular image there's a few things worth noting as we said Christ is being lowered from the cross he's headed down towards his mother's lap and what's interesting is the way that Vanderheiden has essentially echoed their poses the position that Christ is in is very much like the one that Mary is any there's it creates a kind of wave-like downward and leftward movement through the composition that underlines the direction of his body in this narrative and eventually into lowered even into the tomb and into the tomb itself also they're linked in their posture there I'm cutting down because that helps link them in terms of who they are this is mother and son they share a relationship with each other that is not shared with anyone else in the painting and therefore they're similar poses establish that link and I think we're supposed to empathize here with with Mary too and what this moment must have been like her as we see she's extremely pale not only because she's pure and virginal but here also because she's fainted and I think there's a connection there too because Mary has fainted but she will like other people who faint soon regain consciousness and wake up again and I think we need to understand a connection to Christ in this painting too because although he's dead having died on the cross that we really did traditional Christian teaching three days later he will be resurrected from the grave and so I think there's an important link between her having fainted and his having died write to me we're kind of being reminded in a way of the resurrection it's for a foreshadowing that absolute right and you know it's something that I always that I always think about is that skull down there which one is tempted to think of as a memento mori as a reminder of death but actually it's part of another traditional Christian teaching it could be to remind you of death but it's it's more literal meaning is that there was a belief that Christ was crucified on the spot where Adam from Adam and Eve was buried and so frequently you see a skull and bones of the foot of the cross that are supposed to be representing Adam and just as Adam was the old man of the Old Testament Christ is in a way the new Adam the birth of and the presence of the new man under the Christian law of the New Testament right so so Adam having caused Adam and Eve cavy caused the fall of mankind into sin and Christ and Mary redeeming mankind from that original sin right it's a beautiful painting one other thing we can talk about briefly is the way that van der Weiden arranges his composition we talked about the positioning of Christ and Mary but I'd also call your attention to the fact that there are four people on the left but only three people on the right and you might expect that that would throw the composition off kilter and make it seeming off-balance but what he's done is you'll notice the figures on the right where there's only three people have much more elaborate clothing with fancy brocade or Mary Magdalene on the far right is in a robe or in clothing with three or four different colors whereas everyone on the left is in plain solid clothing with no patterns very few colors used and that helps simplify that side compensating for the additional figures but they sort of seem more balanced visually right I also always noticed how the figures on either end are kind of curled inward to sort of focus our attention to the center on Christ and almost like brackets that were close the image right exactly