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Video transcript

we're in the prado looking at El Greco's adoration of the shepherds this is a painting that he did very late in his career it was about 1612 1614 and one that had personal significance for him since it was for his family chapel it's a wild painting well all Greco's are wild but he clearly gets wild or later in his career maybe felt freer because it was personally related the figures are incredibly elongated their positions of their bodies make no sense and there's just enormous license with naturalism here naturalism in fact doesn't even seem to be a requirement even though we're just coming really out of the Renaissance here I mean even by Mannerist standards right because they're basically in the period of mannerism about moving into the Baroque this is extreme well el Greco was Greek and he was trained actually as a Greek icon painter and of course the Byzantine tradition was a tradition that was concerned with distorting the body for symbolic purpose and so I think there is a kind of license that comes from that tradition now el Greco gets to Spain and he does these paintings in Toledo for the most part by way of Italy where he really does train in the Renaissance style so he understands contemporary art at this point I mean really understands what people are doing but he's also willing to let go look what he's done he's removed virtually any reference to actual space we have almost no sense of real depth we have a little bit of a what a barrel vault right behind the Virgin Mary but besides that it's all clouds and light and movement if you look at the structure of the painting the composition the Christ child and occupies the center of about five or six figures almost provides the light source almost as though it was a fire in the center of those figures that they were all warming their hands by I think actually that idea of fire is perfect the figures feel like flames in fact the light seems to be flickering there seems to be everything seems to be transient and nothing seems to be fixed even the human bodies themselves as you mentioned before it seemed completely mutable I think that this pictorial language that we're describing represents the spiritual the transcendent the otherworldly well the church was really trying to combat the threat of the Reformation Fred I think that especially in Toledo you have a very severe reaction a Counter Reformation taking the Council of trance doctrine very seriously so the church is really looking to reform itself to inspire faith and believers in a new and powerful way and I think El Greco's paintings were able to achieve that one of the things that he is is using color in a way that's I really I think unprecedented we have neon oranges and greens and blues and golds that I don't think I've ever seen before it really won't be until dellacroix in the 19th century that somebody is as bold with color and even Delic I think is muted in comparison to this we also have this very stark contrasts of light and dark and figures that are very close to us and this amazing foreshortening I mean look at those angels up in the sky I mean we're seeing them from these remarkable angles there is a sense in El Greco's working especially in the adoration of the shepherds that the divine is with us in the most complete way that is a computer completely infuses the physical world in a way that more traditional more representational Renaissance painting and even matter is painting doesn't quite achieve there is a sense that the divine actually is a physical force that runs as a current through the space that El Greco defines