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Current time:0:00Total duration:3:48

Video transcript

you know when you walk into the Owlery this painting just stands out it almost seems to glow the hands are unbelievable he does seem particularly interested in hands we follow them from the figure of Joseph holding out his hands looking questioning and then the delicate way that Mary hold up Christ's left hand and then the figure of the first mage I whose hands are in prayer as he worships the Christ child the hands continue in this frieze of figures we see the second mage I whose hand is in front of his breast his thumb is up the fingers are slightly separated and the light is coming from behind it creates this kind of transparency that's really extraordinary yeah that really seems like skin doesn't it did the way that we can see the light on his palm between his fingers and at his fingertips it seems so three-dimensional it's as if we could walk into this space and shake that hand when we'd feel it's muscle we'd feel as grip and we feel his grip actually on the Goblet that he's about to offer to the Christ child beyond that there's the assistant who's holding up that goblet and just over his head is another hand that holds the third gift that's to be given by the third king but that hand where the fingers are facing up and there the light is so subtle it was the entire hand is in shadow the light is a tour de force and I think it's in many ways unprecedented in the history of painting everything is seems so physical and actual even the spiritual here is made really present the story that's being told is a common one the Star of Bethlehem leads three kings from the east to pay homage to the newly born christ really speaks of the way that earthly power even the power of kings is humbled before the power of God the wealth of the Kings ground sits neglected against that rock he's far more interested in Christ and in his devotion to the divine and that worldly wealth that worldly power but it's so interesting because Christ in Mary's lap is not actually paying attention to the king Christ stares out directly at us so if we were kneeling in a church directly before this altar we would be returning Christ's gaze and Christ would in turn be blessing us and so there really is this wonderful sense of intimacy and directness here it seems like you go van der egos is combining all of these elements of the Northern Renaissance and then adding something that's very much his own the intensity of the detail makes everything feel actually concrete as if it's more than just having volume that it is actual in the world in some vivid way look at the irises for instance on the left or the columbines on the right the fur of the crown or any of the brocade or does the enormous number of details throughout but none of it feels crowded there's a kind of elegance and a kind of spareness that makes us see these elements as distinct well one famous art historian said that you have undergoes figures have a sense of stage presence that really makes sense to me the figures all have a sense of individuality but in a way that has a kind of charisma to it we were drawn to them and and looking at their faces and wondering what they're thinking it's a sense of a kind of theatricality here that draws us in and makes us want to be part of this scene of intense worship