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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:27

Video transcript

just looking at this painting makes me feel cold we're looking at Peterborough Eagles the return of the hunters or hunters in the snow it's this wonderful panel painting from the Renaissance from Flanders made for a merchant in Antwerp that had asked royal to make six panel paintings which were study of the labors of the months this is an idea that goes back to manuscript illumination back to the medieval period and this is perhaps the very first time in the history of painting where that idea has been brought to this larger scale each one of these paintings represents a different time of year we're obviously looking at winter here and we see some hunters returning from their hunt with their dogs but they haven't got very much to show for their day out hunting if you look closely you can see a rabbit just hanging off the back of one of the hunters but it is a pretty meager catch and it does give us a sense of the stresses of winter you can see the footprints that they're leaving in the snow so there's this real sense of trudging through this deep snowy landscape and in the foreground there is that sense of melancholy as well their backs are turned to us the pack of dogs that follow their heads are down there's a sense of them being tired and unsuccessful but as our eye moves down the hill and it moves down pretty fast there's almost no middle ground all of a sudden we're down in those icy palms then we see a different side of winter we see playfulness and in fact this painting is full of the activities of winter so we're not just looking at a lovely landscape but a landscape that is given meaning by the activities of the people that inhabit it by their daily routines in fact that idea is an ancient one and comes from Virgil Brueghel's patron may well have been thinking about Virgil when he commissioned this series this notion of the painting a landscape that is given meaning by the labors of the people within it although the image seems as if it is a moment in time in fact the painting is carefully composed our eye follows the hunters down the hill which is given a wonderful visual rhythm by those trees and then I wants to ride down to that frozen pond where we say a woman pulling somebody else on the little sleigh yeah and then I want to go buy those Black Crowes and under those arches there's that lovely woman just above who's carrying perhaps some firewood and then beyond that we see lots of play taking place we do we see people pulling each other on the ice children playing and chasing each other a man about to hit a ball with a stick on the ice playing kind of ice hockey for the 16th century and then perhaps actually somebody who's fallen whose hat has fallen off and this is a really typical of Netherlandish painting this idea of giving us a lot of visual information a lot of things to look at it small little narrative so that we can patiently discover more and more think about the time that this is made this is the Renaissance and in Italy it is an attempt at this moment to perfect to isolate the most ideal moments and it's so different from northern painting which is concerned with these almost literary narratives and then every day the mundane it is still interested in finding meaning that comes from the multiplicity of human activities no matter how prosaic are I also can soar through the painting and much like the birds well let me see that's exactly what I was thinking we have the birds who soar through this space even into the very distant Hills that are a reminder that Bruegel had actually made his way from northern Europe across the Alps to Italy but unlike some of the other northerners who made that trip he doesn't come back with the latest traditions of the Italian Renaissance painters instead he seems to be caught in the landscape look at that beautiful Outman Vista that we have in the upper right there's nothing like that in the Netherlands there's nothing like that in flanders right when burgle made his trip down to italy what he seems to have most been impressed with were the alps and so this is a good reminder that what we're looking at is not an actual view for example that Roybal saw out his window but of composed partially imagined Composite landscape activated by these human figures the landscape feels frozen and harsh but it's warmed by its human inhabitants