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Video transcript

according to legend Saint Luke had a vision of the Virgin Mary and child and painted that vision as a result he is the patron saint of painters and you'll notice that st. Luke's eyes are half closed so we know that he is not actually seeing the Virgin and Child in front of him but having a vision it is not his painting in a sense he is literally the hand of this angel Saint Luke's image then of the Virgin Mary and child has a kind of authority because it is God's actually and not his what's interesting then is that the artist Gossard is painting his Virgin Mary and child not from the same authority as the painter Saint Luke in his painting and one wonders about what it was like for artists to paint heavenly figures how does one imagine the Virgin Mary how does one paint Jesus Christ these are I think difficult questions always for artists right we have absolutely no historical references to their likenesses and so where is the authority of any painter who is a transcribing their images and that issue of even the legitimacy of transcribing an image is called into question in the top right corner where the artist is rendered in grows eye and raise a sculpture of Moses and you can tell it's Moses because he's holding the two tablets with the ten laws the Ten Commandments and in the Christian tradition he's shown with horns on his head and so we know it's Moses and Moses seems to actually be pointing at something and one of the laws is to not render people not to render the fish below the sea not to render that birds in the sky the idea that the artist tries to take on the role of God perhaps by trying to create thou shalt not create graven images maybe how most people know that commandment Gossard is living right at the time that the Protestant Reformation begins and one of the things that Luther's followers talk about is the danger of images of people worshiping images instead of using them only as in prayer this is certainly reflecting on the role of the artist and whether images have legitimacy or not well that's right this is absolutely supporting the legitimacy of the artist creating religious imagery because one of the writers of the gospel st. Luke himself painted Mary and the artist has blown out all the stops he is rendering every detail with a precision that comes out of the northern tradition we know that gossart copied van I is fully steeped in the Northern Renaissance tradition of painting everything with a clarity and exactitude and attention to different textures well look at the angel's wings look at the detail of the relief carving in the architecture this is an artist who is just enjoying the ability to magically render form now look for just a second back at Moses and those two tablets and notice the way that the shape of those two tablets rhyme with the architectural space I think when most art historians look at this painting and they look back to this tradition of dividing the earthly space from the spiritual space and certainly that central column does that but it also makes the entire painting two tablets there is this way in which the tablets that Moses holds is actually embodied in the architectural space itself that's true and although we think about the space as being very classical looking looking like ancient Rome and architecture with those round arches and plasters it's still to me a very mysterious space much more like Northern Renaissance spaces where as we look back toward Moses we have those repeated round arches moving back into a space that we can't quite determine there although the foreground of the painting seems to be carefully mapped out according to the rules of linear perspective which obviously Gus artists learned as a Northern Renaissance artist from traveling to Italy but we see so much of the north here if we look at the drapery that same it's typical Northern Renaissance angular folds of drapery that we see in the art of campaign or Roger van der I and so was the color the green that that angel wear is against the complementary red color worn by Saint Luke is a real thoughtfulness about color here this is an artist who was working in Antwerp which was one of the great mercantile cities of the 15th and early 16th centuries and that was a culture and an economy that was based on importation that was based on trade and in some ways this is a painting that is also treating that idea of the North and the South coming together that we see in the work of dürer and beginning with Michael Parker in the late 15th century you