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Video transcript

we're in the church the st. Wolfgang on a gorgeous lake in the Alps in Austria and we're looking at their altarpiece fied one of the most important early Renaissance painters in this region Michael Parker and we're being very hushed because we're talking here in front of the altarpiece it fills the entire space from almost Florida ceiling we're not used to seeing altar pieces that are this intricate and miss large anymore it's a combination of sculpture architecture and painting together in its original location and this is incredibly rare these things are often disassembled and in museums so we don't get to experience them the way that they were meant to be we're also quite lucky because on the day of our visit the altarpiece is opened completely so we're able to see the most sacred areas of the object we have a scene of the court of heaven Mary being crowned as the Queen of Heaven but the space that surrounds them is a Gothic space like the one we're standing in we recognize all the figures here but the one that most people probably wouldn't recognize what be Saint Wolfgang the namesake of this town of the lake and of this church he was a tenth century hermit and I have to say he chose a lovely spot you can see him on the left and st. Benedict is on the right of that central scene and above Christ and Mary flying toward us is a white dove now the space of the altar is incredibly deep I don't think I've ever seen anything like this so that the figures weren't set back in shadow it is like a stage actually and behind Christ and Mary we see angels there's a choir of angels and then there are small angels in the front that seemed to be flitting about for instance holding the hem of Mary's garb and the whole space that the central figures occupy everything about it seems activated the figures seemed to move the angels as he said seemed to flit about Christ raises his hand Mary folds her hands and a gesture of prayer the Dove flies out towards us the filigree on the Gothic niche catches the light it's as though the whole thing is really alive and happening before us and what happens is that we look then on either side to the painted panels and we see painted figures in architecture that again resembles the space that we inhabit well this is early Renaissance painting and we know that the artists pocker had actually crossed the Alps gone to northern Italy and had learned the techniques of artists like Montaigne looks like he has learned the lessons of linear perspective from the Italians which is only about 50 years old he's brought this back to northern Europe and we often think about door being the artist that does this the Parker doesn't long before so we see Parker's interest in deep space we see that in the sculptural figures in the center we see it in his use of linear perspective and foreshortening you're absolutely right this is clearly an artist that is concerned not only with the rendering of deep space but also the creation of mass of solidity within the figures themselves and we see something very typical of Northern Renaissance in German art those very deep and very complicated folds of drapery and he was able to carve the wood quite easily because this is a very soft wood surrounding the central scene are moments from life of Mary and so we have a smaller sculptural scene down in what we might call the pradilla that shows the adoration of the Magi they're framed by two panel paintings on the left is the visitation and on the right the flight into Egypt these are scenes that take place when Christ is an infant we see that chronology continued in the panel's up above on the upper left the nativity of Christ's birth and even there we see an illusion of deep space behind Mary well I love the way that the Angels float very close to the picture plane and the way in which those Timbers that seemed ovals frame of the painting itself and how about the cow whose foreshortened you below that we see Christ's circumsized in the temple and look at the architecture there the complex ribbing of the it's just a perfect mirror of what's above us although I think it's more complicated even and more fanciful than to the space that we're in and then we see perspective in the tiles on the floor and we see that again in the panel on the upper-right the scene of the presentation in the temple and then down below that the death of Mary and we can see her being attended to but then Christ waits for her just above assisted by angels so what's so amazing about this altarpiece is that we have the sculpted gothic architecture that surrounds the central scene of the coronation of Mary and then we have painted space with painted figures in it and painted sculptures for example in the panel on the lower right of the death of Mary and then we stand in this space which is itself inhabited by sculpted figures by Gothic architecture and all of that architecture all of that sculpture in the real space of the church is also painted so it is a kind of perfect fusion there's the potential for a truly visionary experience art is most successful and I think this is especially true in a religious environment when art changes the way that we perceive the things that we would normally see as normal this sculptural group this painted group transforms the way that we see the rest of the church there's a real fusion of our so-called real world and the visionary world of the biblical figures we're looking at the tools of the Renaissance of creating three-dimensional form of believable bodies of believable space or here used to create a total experience the idea of the kazama-kun spark the total work of art all we're missing is music you