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Studying for a test? Prepare with these 2 lessons on The Renaissance in Venice.
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We're in the National Gallery in London and we are looking at a relatively early painting by the great venetian master Titian. And the title of this painting translated from the Latin means 'Don't touch me" . And these are the words that Christ says to Mary Magdalene when she's found that his tomb is empty. This gets right to the heart of the Christian story, of the mystery of resurrection. So Christ is crucified, Christ is entombed. Three days later his tomb is found empty, He's been resurrected, Mary sees the empty tomb, turns to the first person she sees presumably somebody she thinks is a gardener and says: 'what have they done with his body?' He calls her name and he recognises this man as Christ. And then she reaches out to embrace him, to touch him. Of course she's seen him crucified so this is a miraculous vision for her and she reaches out to touch him but he withdraws and says "Don't touch me" or "It's time to let go off me" "It's time not to hold on to my physical presence here on Earth, I've risen, I'm not here anymore in the same way that you knew me before". We're looking how Titian has communicated that idea in his composition. Mary Magdalene in on the ground. She’s at diagonal but she feels in some ways bound horizontally to the Earth and Christ is vertical, he's upright. But there is a gentle sweep to his body a really kind of elegant turn as he almost reaches over her. As you said he pulls away, but also arches over her in a very protective move. And his body is echoed by the tree which leads our eye even further up and reminds us that he will soon become one with God in heaven. There is something etherial there. The incredibly graceful and elegant pose that Titian has rendered Christ in. It's as though we can almost feel her reaching out and almost like a ghost her hand passes through his body. His immateriality is somehow implicit in the pose of his body. Look at the way that the shroud which is now worn almost like a cape around his neck is pulled back by his left arm and creates a kind of void, an area of shadow. It's volume of space that is empty and does create a sense of the non-corporeal. Yeah almost a ghostly feeling there. And in that pose of Mary Magdalene as she's on the ground leaning up and reaching out her hand you feel her desire to see him again to embrace him, to hold him, to feel his physical presence. And you see in his face a kind of concern for her. He looks down at her, and there really is a kind of empathy for her and all this is located in this gorgeous lush landscape that reminds us that it was quite fashionable in Venice at this time to place religious scenes within beautiful fanciful envioronments. So that one can meditate on the biblical moment that was being described but also to allow one's eye to travel through this really beautiful landscape. What a landscape it is. Look at the way in which that atmosphere perspective creates that cool luminous deep space. And I love the way that the sun is setting, and you have the light coming through those clouds. And apparently the colours were once more vivid especially the greens which have turned to browns because of the paint that Titain used. That's right. That were the copper oxide that has lost some of its vibrancy. Nevertheless, the painting is loose, it's beautiful, it's full of gesture. And it's complex human interaction that takes this biblical, this ancient story and makes it vivid and accessible to us even today.