Art II: Renaissance & Baroque 1400–1800, with Rick Steves

Thank you. Oh yeah. Oh, you’re just all
trying to get A’s, alright. We’ll all get A’s.
The great thing about learning about
history and art is, the more you
understand what you’re gonna see before your
trip, the more fun you’re gonna have when you travel.
So we are one third of the way through a
three-hour look at the story of Europe, from the year 500 until
20th century, and now we’re going to dedicate
the next hour to part two, and that is the Renaissance and
the Baroque era, roughly 1400 to 1800. And that’s just a reminder that this is
all very rough dates, this is very sweeping history, it’s ridiculous to try
to do anything in depth when you’re covering 400 exciting years of history
and art for our travel interest in one hour, but I just want to give you a
handle on the very basics, in hopes that you can be inspired to perhaps
drill-down little deeper, and learn more about this before your trip, because I
promise you, when you understand what you’re looking, at it all comes to life.
Your trip to the Vatican to see Rafael’s beautiful School of Athens really has
meaning when you know, “why did he do this, who paid for it, what was their agenda?”
Now when we think about the Renaissance, we are celebrating this return to the
wonder of classical Rome and the classical world, the Greeks and the
Romans. For nearly 1,000 years Europeans were sitting in the dark. They
knew there was something great before them, but they’re
wondering, “when are we gonna come out of this
cultural slumber?” It happened around 1400. And that’s the
time when you had all of this aesthetics of the classical world, the beauty of
these statues from Greece and Rome. And now the Europeans are doing that, they
are grappling with the challenges, they’re stepping forward, they’re
actually going beyond where the great Romans and Greeks went. And it all
started in Florence. It started in Florence for good reason. Florence was the most urban part of
Europe at that time, that part of Italy. it was the most advanced, with banking
and trade, it was the most literate. Florence was sitting — Italy was sitting
on the rubble of ancient Rome, and it was painfully aware that they were great
people here 1,000 years ago, and, “we’re not doing much at all, let’s get
our act together.” In Italy during this period you had no
unified Italian state, you had city-states. And each of them were very
proud, and people did stuff for their city. And, in Florence,
you had this amazing coincidence of all
sorts of great people living in the same generation. Now when
you think of this, what I like to call the class of 1500, it is quite remarkable
to think what was going on at this time, not just Florence, but all over European
civilization. Here is just eight guys who probably — most of them probably knew each
other, or knew of each other, or were like two degrees separated, or something
like that. You’ve got Martin Luther starting the Reformation. You’ve got
Columbus and the great explorers breaking out of that Euro-centric world,
and establishing the fact that the world is round, and there’s a lot of people out
there. You got Machiavelli who is Mr. Machiavellian politics in Florence. We’ve
got Albrecht Durer, on the far right, he was the first guy to a proud self
portrait. Artists are really becoming important characters in this civilization.
You’ve got Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Medici family paying for great art.
You’ve got Leonardo da Vinci, the
classic Renaissance genius. We’ve got Henry VIII who dissolved
the monasteries, and sort of took the reins into his old hands — own hands in
England, and you’ve got Michelangelo. All these guys, the class of 1500. Think about
it. Albrecht Durer, look at
that portrait there, that self-portrait.
This is one guy who’s quite impressed with himself. This is a painter, he’s painting himself
like an elite. In the Middle Ages artists were anonymous craftspeople, now they’re
becoming highly paid, they’re becoming respectable they’re in
the inner court of the political leadership.
This is a big change. we’ve got Martin Luther. Martin Luther
decided, “enough of this other people translating the Bible for us, it should
be able to be read by the parishioners.” And Martin Luther risked his life to
translate the Bible into the people’s language. He wanted to give people an
alternative way to get to heaven without going through Rome.
Quite radical, quite problematic, and we’ll
learn more about him. Henry the Navigator,
Vasco da Gama, Magellan, Columbus,
Amerigo Vespucci, all these guys, same
generation, opening up the world. Then
Columbus sailed to the Americas, when Magellan
sailed around the world, when Vasco da
Gama sailed around Africa to get to the spice trade in
India, suddenly the lock on trade between Europe and all the luxuries of the East
was broken. It didn’t go through Venice anymore, and the
powerful states emerged on the Atlantic seaboard,
and now we have an expensiveness, and that really shook
things up in Europe. This monument is in Lisbon which, in its day, was one of the
most important cities in Europe. And when you had the new — the new
discoveries, and the Age of Discovery, and the Age of Colonization, you got this
wealth just washing back into Europe. There’s so much gold
leaf they can just slather it over all the high altars.
And this would have just been harvested from the
new — the New World. And you’ve got great architectural innovations, and great art
masterpieces, and again, Florence is the epicenter of all of this.
When we look at this dome, this is the Duomo, the Cathedral of Florence. And we
gotta understand, that is really the architectural kickoff for the
Renaissance. Within a 10-minute walk of that dome, you can see much of the great
art of the Renaissance. That dome itself symbolizes the spirit of the Renaissance.
when the Florentines built the Gothic church, they didn’t know how they were
gonna finish it. They just knew it was
not going to be another Gothic spire, it was going
to be something more Renaissance, more
Roman, it was going to be a dome but they
didn’t know how to make the dome yet. And
they scrambled, and they found somebody,
Brunelleschi, who could innovate this, and they capped that
Gothic church with a Renaissance dome. This was the biggest dome built in Europe
since the year 200, when they built the Pantheon. 1,200 years, they had not been
able to build a dome bigger than the Pantheon, and now the Florentines did it.
To give you an idea of how respected this dome was, later on when Michelangelo
was hired to go to Rome and design the new St. Peter’s Basilica,
he said, “I can build a dome bigger but not more
beautiful than the dome in my hometown,” designed by Brunelleschi, the
Duomo in Florence. That’s the dome that inspired so many domes until today.
And today you can go to the top of
that dome as a visitor. When we look at the architecture of the
Renaissance, we see geometry. Everything is balanced, everything
is orderly, everything is symmetrical. Squares and
circles, it all works out. They were so into the geometry that when
you step into a great Renaissance church, what they want to show off is not frilly
clouds and cupids, but the architectural lines themselves. You can see here,
they’ve actually highlighted the lines by making them a different
color than the rest of the wall. So you step
in there and you think, “these people have their act together
geometrically.” Remember throughout the Middle Ages, art was okay if it was the
house of God. Why would you be making frilly, silly, luxurious art if it wasn’t
for the glory of God? The most noble art form was architecture, the most noble
building was the church, paintings, statues, windows, tapestries, were okay
because they decorated the house of God. Statues were in the niches of churches.
And you can psychoanalyze this as Europe is stepping away from the church. This is the humanism that is sweeping
through Europe, starting with the Florentines. Here we have a church in
Florence. And this is more Gothic, and these are buried deep in the church. This is a niche in the church. In
the same church you have another niche, made later on, and here we see St. George,
who is alert. He’s reaching out of the church, he’s still there, he’s only
legitimate because he’s in the church, but boy he is ready to leap. He is ready
to jump. And you can look at his face, you can look at his alertness, you can look
at the way his toes are grabbing the edge. And then you have David by Donatello.
David. This is the first male nude to be sculpted in Europe in a thousand years. This would have been disgusting a
generation earlier, and now we are celebrating a classical nude, a Greek
classical nude. David. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a male nude,
but it is a Bible story. David is still toying with the head of Goliath at his
feet, so it’s okay because it’s religious. But this is art done for a rich person
to decorate his garden. That’s a big change. And that was an inspiration, and
this is kind of the excitement of the Renaissance. It’s dicey, it’s very very
dicey. Here Botticelli shows you Eve and Venus. It’s the same person, isn’t it. But
the first one is Eve because it’s still got to be a biblical
character, and then later on you can take Eve and
say” no, no, no, I’m just kidding, it was pre-Christian.” This
is really cool because the pre-Christian stuff is humanist, people can do it. You
don’t need to be humbled by the church. You’ve got the Three Graces in a ancient
Roman fresco, and you’ve got the Three Graces in a Florentine Renaissance
painting. The same inspiration. Now artists are mathematicians. Artists
understand the laws of perspective, artists are scientists,
they’re botanists, they gotta know what
they’re painting so they can give you realism.
Before, it was just symbolism. It was narrative, it was
like comic book figures, now they want to show you the real thing.
And they’ve got it organized so that it has a psychological
impact. Here, Leonardo actually had a design for his Last Supper. Now when you
look at this you don’t think, “oh man isn’t it amazing how the lines of
perspective pull you right to Jesus,” but subconsciously you feel those lines
bringing you to the center piece, which of course is Jesus. And at the same time,
there’s something about that room that’s not quite right mathematically. Leonardo
didn’t make a mistake, he wanted to create an otherworldly
atmosphere at that table also, because this was
not just any dinner, this was the Last Supper. So these are
mathematical, scientific, geniuses that have an agenda, and this is coming
through in the art. Now in order to be an artist, you have to have understood the
mathematical laws of perspective. Ghiberti did the gates of the baptistry
[Gates of Paradise], and here you can see this is the pride
of Florence. They had a competition to decorate the gate of the baptistry, and
all the leading artists of the generations submitted their, their,
their samples of what they could do. And Ghiberti was given the gig, and for a
generation he was the superstar artist of Florence, and he blessed the city with
these incredible panels, there’s a whole bunch of these panels. When we look at
’em, we see this is a mathematician. He is
really passionate about showing believable three-dimensional depth on a
flat two-dimensional surface. This is about a half an inch deep, but he’s pulled out
all the stops to make it feel very deep. Lookit, you’ve got arc — mathematically
correct architectural backdrop, you’ve got tiles in the foreground that are
mathematically correct, intentionally put there, you don’t need tiles in the
foreground but that gives you a sense that it’s going deep. In the center you
have a foreshortened bench, in the back there, that lets you know it’s deep. You’ve got a foreground, a middle ground, and a
background this is brilliant to show believable three-dimensionality. In a
generation before that, nobody would have bothered, it didn’t matter, but now they
are so fanatic about showing depth. Mantegna painted this Jesus taken down
off the cross, this deposition, foreshortened in an extreme way. Why
would anybody do that? This is really tough, try to do this on a napkin next
time in a restaurant, it’s just really, really tough to make it work. And
Mantegna is a Renaissance artist and he could handle, it he took the challenge
and he did it. The paintings are evolving from this
flowery, mystical, dreamy, Gothic style, with pointed arches, with gold leaf
backgrounds, and with very unrealistic characters. Here we have — by the way this
is an annunciation, and the angel is telling Mary she’s gonna give birth to
the Messiah. And just in case you don’t know it, actually there’s a line of sight
here, and there’s actually writing along the line, connecting the angel with Mary.
And, you know, when you’re
seeing all of the different great paintings
of this period, they all are telling a story, you always
gotta remember who paid for this and what’s the agenda here. Here we’ve got a
High Gothic painting, and we can see two things happening at the same time. On the
left you can see Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and on
the right you can see the Holy Spirit coming down, along with the angel, to tell
Mary she’s got, all of a sudden, a lot of importance coming down the road in her
life, she’s going to have to give birth to baby Jesus. When we look at the
portico there, it’s not a believable space. It’s not important that it’s
mathematically correct, it’s just wacky from an arithmetic point of view, but that’s
good enough. We see the columns and we see the roof, that’s all they needed to
do. If we look at Mary more carefully, we can understand that the artist has no
interest in the anatomical correctness of her hands. I mean look at those hands, it’s like
somebody’s wearing two left-handed rubber gloves, you know, when you have to
wash dishes. It’s just not right. But that’s okay,
there’s five fingers there, those are human hands, and that’s good enough. The art is evolving. This — on the
left is a very early Gothic painting, and we see some attempt at depth. We can see
Mary’s foot stepping over the tabernacle, we can see the whole altarpiece there,
trying to have substance, but we see the angels are just stacked on top of each
other totem pole style. On the right we see a painting by Giotto, a more
modern painter, and here Mary has more believable depth. The architecture of her
throne is more believable, and we can see the angles are not stacked on top of
each other like totem poles, but they get smaller as they get farther away, as
would be reality. So artists now are
trying to do this. Giotto is considered the first modern
painter. In this fresco we see a scene from Giotto which is a vignette. It’s cute,
there’s an animal, there’s depth, there’s rocks, there’s an angel, it’s a
a real scene. There’s actually a blue sky instead of a goldleaf sky, they’re moving
away from that gold leaf stuff. Remember who paid for it and why. This is a
powerful crucifix done by Grunewald in Alsace in France. And this was paid for by
a hospital where people were dying gruesome deaths from skin diseases.
That was a common way to die in the Middle Ages, you had a skin disease
and you just rotted to death. It was a horrible thing. And people would go to
these hospice places, and they would just wait until they died. And they didn’t
have any painkiller, all they had was their faith and their belief that Jesus
suffered, Jesus came to Earth to suffer and to be able to empathize with us, he
knows what you’re going through, have faith, you’ll get
through this, and ultimately be in heaven
where everything’s okay. So from a medieval frame of mind you
look at this Jesus, Jesus actually has a skin disease himself here, to be more
empathetic with the people in this hospital. We can see the death of Jesus. I
mean, it’s pulling the crossbar down. His elbows are pulled out of their sockets,
his fingers are stiff in death, his feet are mashed by a bad job of hammering in
the nail. This is really gripping, this is a powerful altarpiece designed for
people who are in great suffering, that need to know their Savior suffered also.
He’s with you, you’ll get through this. This is powerful medieval art, and it’s
important to know who paid for it and why. When we look at the art in the great
churches in Florence, we can see the work of the Florentine masters, this is by
Masaccio. And Masaccio was hired here to paint a chapel into a sanctuary, and look
at the architectural depth there. It’s just painted flat on the wall, but in a
sense, you’ve got a whole new room in that church, it is so believable. And look
at the pyramid of that the design there, that is designed for stability. You’ve got a pyramid of people, it’s all
symmetrical, it’s balanced, it’s mathematically correct, classic
Renaissance by Masaccio. One of the great names of the Florentine Renaissance is
Botticelli. I’m a sucker for Botticelli, I just love his work. And he
is so excited about this opportunity to be more classical Greek, and classical
Roman, and be free to paint from before the advent of Christianity in Europe,
when they really had that humanism going on. And here we have the Birth of Venus,
commonly called Venus on the Half Shell, and you’ll see that in the Uffizi Gallery,
in one room right next to the birth of spring — or the painting called Spring. And
there’s a whole room in the Uffizi Gallery filled with Botticelli
masterpieces, and if you like Botticelli, if you like Florentine art,
the Uffizi Gallery is the best collection of paintings anywhere
in Europe. The three big names of the Renaissance: Leonardo,
Michelangelo, and Raphael. Leonardo is your classic Renaissance genius. This is
a self-portrait of Leonardo. And when you think about Leonardo’s genius, it is
broad. And that’s kind of what a Renaissance man is, he’s not just a poet, he’s not just a philosopher, he’s not
just an engineer, he’s all these things. If Leonardo was
going to write his epitaph, it would probably read something like this, “here
lies Leonardo, a great poet, philosopher engineer, man of letters, architect,
sculptor, and I could paint pretty well also.” I mean he just did it all, that’s
what you did. Michelangelo designed scaffolding to go to the top of the
Sistine Chapel. Nobody’d ever done this, they said said it couldn’t be done, he did it. Michelangelo built a road to
get up to the best marble, in Carrara, nobody else could do it. Michelangelo
designed the road. Florence was under attack, the city of
Florence hired Michelangelo to design their fortifications. Michelangelo did
his sculpture, the Pietà, and David. And the Pope wanted him
to paint, so he went down to Rome and he did
the Sistine Chapel. I mean, it’s amazing.
“Oh yeah, you’re not dead yet, why don’t you design the dome,”
so he did the dome of St. Peter’s. He did it all. These guys
were amazing. Now when you think about Leonardo, you’re
thinking of his Mona Lisa, his most famous painting, you’ll see that in the Louvre.
Here we have visually sort of the quintessence of the Renaissance. Stable,
squat. Her hands are there to give a base. She’s a triangle. She’s even tilted back
a little bit so she doesn’t wobble. She is a model of composure, she’s subtle, and
you’ve got this mysterious background. You’ve got this background. Leonardo
didn’t want to be so simplistic to have a tree lined road going to a vanishing
point, Leonardo took it one step further in the way he showed depth. He wanted to
show depth, he wanted to be this realism, He did it by analyzing
what happens to color as it gets farther
away from your eye It sort of mellows out as it gets
further, you know, when you look at a zoom lens kind of
painting — or a zoom lens shot, you can see the color changes, its
muted in the distance. Leonardo’s dreamy
landscapes show depth that way in a classic sort
of Leonardo trick. Leonardo was very cerebral about his art.
Everything was organized. I mean here we have a painting by Leonardo, and he
would’ve had it all figured out this way. When we look at it we don’t see that,
but you can see the circle created by the semicircular top. If you dropped it
down, it would fit in the box of the rest of the painting perfectly. If you look at
everybody’s gaze, everybody in that painting is looking at the same point,
underlined by a finger. So that gives a cohesiveness there. And when you look
at that painting, you’re oblivious to it. But the point is, the Renaissance master
knew about that, he intended that, and he made it happen. Here we have another
Madonna and Child, we see that pyramid, we see symmetry, two columns on both
sides, always symmetrical, and we see Leonardo’s dreamy landscape. Leonardo did
the Last Supper. Now when a genius like Leonardo is hired to do the Last Supper,
he doesn’t just do the Last Supper. It’s not just 12 guys having dinner with
Jesus. It is some sort of agenda for the patron. What do you want to show? And the
man who paid for this wanted to show the exciting moment when Jesus said, “one of
you will betray me,” and everybody got excited and said, “Lord is it I?” It’s
that “Lord is it I,” moment that Leonardo is capturing here. When you know that, as
the visitor, then you look at this differently, and you can see the energy,
and the excitement, and the mastery of realism that Leonardo gets across. Of course, Leonardo was a very
experimental kind of guy, he didn’t want to just do the slam-dunk obvious, and he
was innovating all the time, so this is a fresco. Remember fresco is different than
a painting. Tith the fresco, you draw a cartoon on the wall, you mix the pigment
into the wet plaster, and you apply the plaster to the wall within the cartoon
you drew. You’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to be
accurate, because when it’s dry you’re stuck with it, and it’s very
durable when it’s done. Leonardo’s Last Supper, a fresco.
Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, a fresco Now Leonardo did an experimental
fresco here with the Last Supper, and the wall absorbed moisture
in a way he didn’t anticipate, and today it
looks pretty, pretty bad. And it was looking bad pretty soon
after Leonardo did that, and that’s just a consequence of his adventurous spirit.
Michelangelo is a different kind of artist. Michelangelo was the first crazed
artist. He was just so into it, and he would pick his favorite marble, and for
him it was all about realism. You didn’t want to show that paper mache medieval
pietà with a dead Jesus looking like it’s not even a real body, you have to
have a real body, and a dead body. Again, what’s the purpose of this? You’re not
just doing a pietà, there’s Mary and Jesus, Jesus died for our sins. This is a dead Christ, he’s been killed.
He’ll rise again and everything will be alright, but right now Mary is sitting with
the body of her dead son, who’s just been crucified, on her lap. That’s got to get
across by showing that this is a believable body. And we’ve got Mary
looking younger than she should be because that’s the eternal youth of the
Virgin, you’ve got Jesus with his beautiful body, his believable body.
Obviously Michelangelo has dissected because he knows what’s under the skin.
It was dangerous to dissect back then, it wasn’t allowed. People — artists did it on
the sly. And if Michelangelo saw another hotshot artists from another
town who was supposed to be really good, take one look at of art — at his art, and he’d
say, “You’ve dissected haven’t you? I know you’ve dissected because you got
that body right.” Here we see Jesus, his dead body on Mary, and you’ve got a stone
body, you want it to be flesh. How do you make the flesh
more fleshy when it’s really stone? Contrast.
Contrast is really important. How do you make a group
really happy with a wonderful hotel? Give ’em a lousy
one just before it. Contrast, okay. Now when it
comes to art, you’ve got this intentionally coarse
robe of Mary, don’t you, accentuating the beautiful
fleshy body of Jesus. The deadweight, you see Mary’s
hand under Jesus’ arm, you see the weight of his
body, actually her fingers are pushing into his rib
cage because he’s so heavy. This is so powerful, and to stand there
in St. Peter’s Basilica and look into the eyes of Mary holding the crucified
Christ as a Catholic, understanding the importance of Mary in the Catholic faith, it’s magnificent, it’s powerful. And it’s
our challenge to understand and accept the context of this art. What’s it all
about? Why was this such a big deal? Why is it
in the most important Church in Christendom? Because Jesus is gone
Mary’s holding the body, and Mary is our intercessor, Mary’s gonna take care of
us. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing. A few
years later, Michelangelo sculpted David. Now when we think about David — when we
think about Michelangelo and we think about Leonardo, these are two great
Renaissance artists, but two quite different artists. Leonardo thought the
most noble thing is to paint. Leonardo would paint, and he would create from
nothing, I mean it’s quite impressive, he was quite a popular dandy, a legend in
his own time, very well-paid, and he would paint, and then at six o’clock he’d wash
up and go to some fancy gathering at the Medici’s house, you know.
Michelangelo, on the other side, he said “no,
Leonardo you got it all wrong, we are not divine ourselves, we don’t
create, it is most noble for us to be a servant of God. We will reveal the
beauty God put into the stone, that’s why I would rather sculpt than to paint. I want to reveal God’s beauty.” And
Michelangelo would get passionate with a piece of marble. He’d chip away at it like
mad. When he was inspired he would even have a little beanie with a candle on
his head so he could chip away at night. He was the first crazed artist. And when
you look at, for instance, the Pietà, I mean think of a — it sounds a little bit
like, “yeah, c’mon, really,” but think of a 25-year old you know, and give him a
chisel and a piece of marble and say “reveal.” Michelangelo
must have been inspired because he
was passionate about knowing the Pietà was
inside of that marble, “and I’m going to chip away the excess
and show it.” I’m going to take that big hunk of
marble, and I know there’s a beautiful David inside, and I’m gonna reveal it.”
When we look at David, I think we’re looking at the visual embodiment of the
Renaissance. I love thinking about David. It was paid for by Florence to be the
symbol of Florence, as it was struggling against its bully city-state neighbors.
And what’s the deal? The good mascot for Florence is David,
not because David was a brute, but because David was on God’s side. David
was a thinking individual who had faith in God, and it wasn’t David, the little
boy, that slayed the giant, it was God working through David that slayed the
giant. And when you look at this statue, a lot of people say that hand, that right
hand is just too big, what’s going on with Michelangelo? He didn’t mess up,
that’s intentional. This is the hand of God, and it was the hand of God that slayed
the giant, and it was the hand of God that made sure Florence triumphed over
Bologna, and Pisa, and Genoa, and all those other Italian city-states. When we look
into the eyes of David, I believe we’re looking into the eyes of Renaissance man. And for me, this is
really sizing up the darkness of the medieval
superstitious world. Again, this is humanism. Humanism, in
a Italian Renaissance sense, is not a repudiation of God. I think it’s just an
understanding that the best way to glorify God is not to bow down in church
all day long, but it’s to recognize the talents that God blesses you with, and
then get out there and use them. And that’s what the Renaissance Florentines
were doing. They were doing this for the glory of God, but they were doing it in a
humanist spirit, they could tackle their challenges, and they could overcome. And
Florence would really succeed. This is just so exciting when you get
into that, and when you get into that in your travels, as you visit all of these
palaces, and galleries, and museums, they take on more meaning. It’s important when
we’re traveling and looking at things done in the 1400 and 1500 to realize
that they were awestruck. Wonder- struck by what happened 1,500
years ago in Ancient Roman times, and 2,000 years ago during the Greek Golden
Age. And they would actually know about these statues from the ancient writings,
but they would be lost, and they would just be looking at sketches of these
things, and descriptions of them, and then they would find them. The Torso Belvedere, or the Laocoon, these are great statues that you’ll find in the
Vatican today. These kind of statues were uncovered during the careers of
Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael, and they would run down to wherever they
were excavated and sketch them, and be inspired at them. These are two
2,000 year old inspirations, and from those, look at the musculature there, the
artist of the Renaissance would be inspired, and they would bring us their
Renaissance art. A lot of Michelangelo’s art is unfinished, and nobody knows
exactly why. Very well could have been that his patrons would die, or get
sidetracked, and money would dry up, and priorities would change, and he’d be called
over here to do that, or over here to do that. Or maybe Michelangelo the genius
was just satisfied. He’s revealing the body that was in
there, he’s not gonna hang around to polish it, that takes a lot of time, let’s
get on to something else. Whatever the case, you’ll see a lot of
unfinished works by Michelangelo. In fact at the Accademia in Florence
they there’s a whole hall of them that lead right up to David.
It’s sort of to me like a temple of humanism, and at
the high altar of humanism you’ve got David, declaring that we’re moving into
the modern world, the Renaissance in Florence. Michelangelo loved the
musculature of the body. He wasn’t great with women’s bodies, but
he loved the body. It’s like a woman’s body for
Michelangelo, to me it seems like it’s a man’s body with coconut shells, you know,
I mean it’s just — Michelangelo’s favorite thing to do was
to go up to the quarry pits up, in Carrara where the best marble in the
world was, and he would sketch the muscular, rippling bodies of those quarry
workers, and he would be inspired, and he would come back and make those kinds of
statues. Now when you think about seeing Michelangelo’s finished
work, you can see almost all of it in Rome,
Florence, and Milano. There’s great art by Michelangelo in
Florence and well in Milan and Rome, but in Florence be sure to go to the Museum
of the Cathedral, behind the cathedral, and there you’ll see an underrated and
just beautiful piece of work by Michelangelo. This pietà which has
Nicodemus on the top. And Nicodemus has the features of Michelangelo himself in
his old age, and it’s just a powerful self-portrait as he’s looking down on
what maybe is one of his last works of art. Again, think of the intent of the
artists here. Jesus — this is the deposition, Jesus’ body being taken down
off the cross. Again, Jesus has been killed, Jesus has died, you can’t have a
resurrection without the death first, and you want to emphasize the death.
And look at the weight of Jesus’s
body pulling down. Look at how tall
Jesus is, Jesus is unrealistically tall,
if he was to stand up. You’ve got that zigzag of his body
giving you that weight coming down, and that was all calculated by Michelangelo
to give you the power of that particular pieta — pietà, and that is what
distinguishes a Renaissance genius just from another artist. Now Michelangelo
really like to be in Florence doing statues. But when the Pope says, “come to
Rome and do a painting,” Michelangelo really has no choice. So he goes down to
Rome, and he spent years on his back doing the fresco of the Sistine Chapel,
the ceiling, and much later he’s called back again to
do the big wall behind the altar, the Last Judgment. Two very different works
of art, one done around 1510 I believe, and the other done around 1540, okay. The ceiling is humanism. It is the story
of creation. It is God giving Adam the spark of life, and right from the very
beginning Adam is quite an impressive character.
We look at Adam there and we go, “wow, he
is made in God’s image.” This is a humanist look at Creation, and
that is in keeping with the Renaissance sort of aesthetic. When we think
about David and — I mean Adam — and the stature he gets right from that moment
he gets the spark of life, it just all fits in with what we’re talking about.
And when we look more at the different scenes on the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel, showing Genesis and the whole Creation, we can psychoanalyze it further.
For instance, here we have the dramatic expulsion. Adam and Eve disobeyed, they
tried the apple, and now they’re getting kicked out of the garden. If we look at
this historically, we’ve seen the same theme again, and again, and again. In the
Middle Ages when Adam and Eve eat the apple, they are puny worthless creatures.
And it’s almost like worms on the sidewalk after a rainstorm, and God comes
in and just sweep them out into the wilderness and there’s no more Garden of
Eden for them, okay. That’s a medieval look at it. In the
early Renaissance, on the left, you see a Masaccio, an early Renaissance
Florentine painter, and we can see the weight, and the emotion, and the
believable light source, and the heartbreak of being kicked out of the
Garden of Eden. And that’s early Renaissance. High Renaissance, we can look
at Michelangelo’s depiction of Adam and Eve getting kicked out of
the garden, and it’s almost like Adam’s saying, “come on
Eve, we’ll go, we screwed up, I’m sorry, we’ll be okay on our own,” okay.
That’s that confidence of the Renaissance man, even getting kicked out
of the Garden of Eden, you’re gonna make it, you’re gonna make it. Now 30 years
later, it’s a whole different story. The Reformation has happened. Rome has
been sacked by the Catholic army of Spain. The Roman Catholic Church has been
split. It’s been a horrible couple of decades,
and the church is coming out swinging. This is the Counter-Reformation. And
Michelangelo is asked to paint the Last Judgment. And the Last Judgment is a
scary thing, I mean here we have a vindictive Christ coming down on
Judgment Day, his fist is raised. Mary is cowering under him. I mean, you
know, normally Mary will go, “can’t you go easy on these people?” No. Mary can’t
even get in a word edgewise here. Jesus is coming down, there’s
people who are going to heaven, and there are people
who screwed up. And if you’re a Protestant, God help you,
because you’re kicking off a miserable eternity in hell. Michelangelo’s last great work was the
dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo took the job knowing he
would never live to see it completed, and he took the job on three conditions.
Number one, that he would have an army of workers to get as much of it done in his
lifetime as possible. Number two, that he would not be paid. He
wanted this to be a mark of his devotion to the church. And number three, that the
dome would cap a Greek cross church. A Greek cross is like a plus sign, right,
equidistant arms, as opposed to a Latin cross, was like a crucifixion cross with
a long stem. Why was that such a big deal? Because Michelangelo is a humanist, and
he wants the church to be a positive place. Man is made in God’s image. A Greek
cross is contained in a perfect circle, it’s all very positive, whereas a Latin
cross is more “hellfire and brimstone.” So there’s that philosophical point, and
then there’s also the point of if you have a glorious dome and you have a long
normal west portal and nave, the portal will obliterate the grandeur of
the dome, because you — it comes out too far and you can hardly see the dome. And
with a shorter nave, you get the glory of the dome. This is Michelangelo’s dome
here looked at from a window in the Sistine
Chapel — or a window in the Vatican Museum, and you can see what a glorious design
it is. Taller than a football field on end, the tallest dome in Europe.
You can go to the top for wonderful views. But
when you look at it from St. Peter’s Square you have this
big baroque facade obliterating the view when you stand just in front of the
church. You don’t even see the dome. And that really frustrates the architect. Now
the church was gonna go along with this Greek cross plan until the Baroque
Age comes in. With the Baroque Age which follows the Renaissance, everything is
more theatrical and you got a cast of thousands, and you
need capacity to have more people in the
church, so what do they do? They say, “well here’s a fix,
we’ll just double the nave, who needs that Greek cross we’ll make a Latin cross, then
twice as many people can go inside on Christmas Eve for the mass,” you see. Well
that’s handy but it messes up Michelangelo’s vision for the church.
Still, when you stand on the square and when you climb that dome, you get a good
appreciation for Michelangelo’s genius as an architect, as well as a painter and
sculptor, a Renaissance genius. Raphael is the third of the big three, and
Raphael is considered the synthesis of the grace of Michael — the grace of
Leonardo and the power of Michelangelo. When we look at Raphael’s work it is
very balanced, it is sort of uber Renaissance. Again, you’ve got these
triangles, you’ve got that stability, you’ve got the symmetry, even if you have
five people in this holy family, you’ve got — with St. John the Baptist — you’ve
got a tangle of bodies making a pyramid, you even got the clouds that are
symmetrical, the clouds fall into order, one on either side, so everything is
balanced and looking in a good Renaissance way. The Pope hired Raphael to
paint the library of the pope in the Vatican in a celebration of Greek and
Roman pre-Christian philosophers. This is mind-blowing, this is
radical, that’s what people were getting locked up for and
run out of town in the old days, and now the Pope has hired Raphael to
celebrate Socrates and Plato. I mean you got — this is called the School of Athens.
And what’s really exciting about the School of Athens, it shows St. Peter — the new St. Peter’s Basilica under construction, because it was happening at the same
time. And it has all the greatest stars of the Greek Golden Age, portrayed by the
superstars of the art world of Raphael’s generation, they’re playing the roles. So when you look at Plato and
Aristotle, Plato, on the left, is actually Leonardo da Vinci. Raphael made sure to
include Michelangelo in the School of Athens. You got Euclid down there doing
the design, and playing Euclid is Bramante, the engineer that did a lot to
design the dome of St. Peter’s. And in the background, just peeking around the
corner from that pillar, is a self-portrait of the artist, Rafael
himself. It’s so exciting to look into these
paintings and understand what’s going on. So remember, this is Europe in the
1500s. And you’ve got big families running things, you got the
Ottoman Empire still on the scene, you have no Germany but you do have the Holy
Roman Empire, which is a loose confederation of German states. You’ve got no Italy but you have the
Pope being a big shot politically. During this period the Pope was called the Pope
King. And you’ve got Venice running a trading empire that stretches all the
way to Crete and beyond. When Raphael dies in 1520, the Reformation — or the Renaissance, heads up to Venice. Started in Florence, the Pope
bought it down to Rome to do all that renovation, the big three are gone, 1520,
and it emerges, or it carries on up in Venice, where there’s just lots of money.
Remember Venice is a city of fabulously rich merchants, and they have their own
ethics and their own values, and they hire the best artists of the day to make
them feel good about their materialistic values. You got a painting like this. This
is Danae, and the Shower of Gold, and this is by Titian. Titian was the
greatest Venetian painter. You can remember him, Titian the Venetian,
cranked out about one painting a month for 60 years. You’re going to see a lot
of Titians when you travel. And Titian was earning his living, and a very good
living, by making these big shots in Venice happy by painting art that made
rich people feel good about their materialistic values. Here we have a
voluptuous woman reclining, no more symmetry, reclining sloppily, and sexily
on a messy bed, and money, gold, falling down from the heavens, just
blessing this rich guy. You’ve got art that, like this is called Venus and the
Organ Player, showing the tension between culture and hedonism, as this merchant
leers at this voluptuous woman while keeping both hands on his organ. This is
just such, it’s such powerful art, and it is soaked in keeping with
the values of the rich people that were paying for it in Venice.
In the North you’ve got the Northern Renaissance. Now
the Northern Renaissance is not a renaissance in the true sense of the
word, it is a growth out of the Gothic Period
funded by lots of money. It wasn’t going back to the greatness of Classical Rome,
it was just lots of money and lots of interest in art. And here we have a bunch
of merchants, a bunch of city big shots in the Netherlands with
the world, and open — closing a deal. It’s just
that sort of values. You’ve got guilds, you’ve got lots of
money, this is on the main square in Belgium, and you’ve got art that is
really excited about details, lots of details, tiny details. This is a
Descent From the Cross by van der Weyden, paid for by the archery guild.
And lookit, Jesus almost looks like a
crossbow there, doesn’t he. It is so much fun to
know who paid for the art and what do they
have in it for them. There’s a playful attention to detail,
this is the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, classical, classic
sort of values in the North, you have a rich
merchant and his bride, all sorts of symbolism. She looks
pregnant, I don’t think she was pregnant, it was just the style to make her dress
like she was pregnant to make it more likely that she would be fertile and
that they would have a child, at least that’s what they told their parents.
There’s a dog at her feet symbolizing fidelity, Fido. There’s ripe fruit on the
windowsill symbolizing fertility. In the back there’s a whisk broom hanging on
the wall, maybe symbolizing what the position of the woman is after the
wedding. And if you look in the very back, the round mirror. In the old days you
didn’t have the technology to make a big mirror so you made a
round mirror that bowed out and collected more images.
If you look carefully at that you can actually
see the bride and the groom from behind, and the artist himself painting the
scene. It’s just playful attention to detail,
symbolic of that fun-loving detail you find in Northern European art during the
Northern Renaissance. Art up here is sort of folky, it doesn’t have heavy-duty
Christian spiritual messages, it’s got folk wisdom. Here we have sort of a
peasant’s wedding dance, and everybody’s dancing around the bagpipe. Bagpipes are
symbolic of hedonism there, and the churches in the background being ignored. So there is a little message there, but
it’s kind of playful and fun. The art by masters like Peter Bruegel showed slice
of life in the Netherlands. Here we have a hundred different games children play
in the streets, or 40 different games people play in the streets.
And if you look at each one of them
it’s a little vignette, a fun little intimate look at life
back then, centuries ago in the Netherlands. This is
a triptych, a three-panel altarpiece, done by a guy named Hieronymus Bosch. This is
called the Garden of Delights. And here we have a typical preachy altarpiece. On
the left we have Creation. God creating Adam and Eve, a luscious garden, everything
is peaceful and good. In the center, we have hedonism gone wild. All of these decadent people in bubbles,
in fruit pies, having all sorts of sexy things going on, chasing misguided values,
and that ends up in hell on the right, and that’s where we got the dues you pay
from all of these earthly pleasures. You can see here all of the earthly
pleasures, and then when you go to the third panel, you see your hellish result.
Here we have a self-portrait of the artist Bosh, wearing your typical
nightmarish hat with the bagpipe symbolizing hedonism, with birds leading
naked people around the bri, the artist with your broken eggshell body, and tree
trunk legs, crashing through dinghies on a frozen sea. Bosch was really a trip, I’ll tell you. And
you can look at Bosch for hours, and you can see his great art, a lot of it in
Spain, in the Prado, the greatest collection of paintings I think anywhere
in Europe, because back then it was called the Spanish
Netherlands, and the king of Spain ruled it and he
got all the best art, consequently it ends up in their museum
hundreds of years later. In Germany you got Albrecht Durer. And
Albrecht Durer, this is another self portrait
of this guy, he just was quite a self-respecting dandy,
and he insisted on being well-known, on putting his initials on
every painting so people could see it, and along
with attention to detail, he was famous for being the first
mass-produced painter, because he was a master of the woodcut. And you would
paint on a piece of wood, and then you would chip away all the wood that was
showing, apart from the sketch that you did, and then you would dip that in the
ink, and you stamp it out, and you would produce all of these paintings. And now
people could afford to have an Albrecht Durer in their house, because they printed
up like mad. And at the bottom you have AD, Albrecht Durer, reminding
you who made this piece of art. In the same generation
as Michelangelo in Florence, you’ve got Michelangelo
style, Michelangelo quality, wood
carvers in Germany. You’ll see some of the very best wood
carving when you go to Rothenburg in the church there by Riemenschneider, from
about the year 1504. Now during this period, you’ve got all
sorts of corruption in the church. You’ve got the church running around,
trying to pay for all that art with the new Basilica at the Vatican, that was
not cheap. You got an army of people working on
this thing, and you’ve said all of your tithe collectors to the far reaches of
the Roman Catholic world, saying, “as soon as you drop a coin in the bucket your
loved one’s soul will be spring free from purgatory,” selling indulgences, selling
church offices, just really disgusting Christians up there that didn’t
understand why giving money to this corrupt guy would help you get to heaven
quicker. And that was causing a problem, and that was causing a lot of people to
chafe at the bits. I want to remind you, during this period the church was
really really powerful. They were the biggest landowner in Europe,
the church officials — when people die you’d will your
land to the church or the monasteries, so that
you would have people praying for you to get
through purgatory. The only people that could thumb their
noses at secular laws of all the petty little kings and dukes in Germany, were
the church officials, because they had a higher law from Rome.
10% of all your wealth would go to Rome in
the form of tithes. There were so many reasons for the petty
little political leaders of Germany to jump on the Reformation bandwagon, they just needed somebody to give them
permission to overthrow the power of the church, take all that land keep all that
money, and still be Christian, so you could go to Rome
without going through — so you could go to
heaven without going through Rome. And remember, during this
period the abbeys and the monasteries and the church controlled knowledge. If
you’ve seen the movie or read the book, Name of The Rose, you get a very vivid
image of that. And I was just in a monastery in Prague where they had a
cage above the library, called “Libri Prohibiti,” the prohibited books. And
these were the books that you had to get the key from the abbot to actually get
your hands on and read. And this is a period when none of the Bible or the
sacred writings could be translated into the vernacular languages so regular
people could learn them, they were only in Latin because that kept him away
from the unwashed masses, and then the priesthood would interpret that to the
people. And that’s one that way the church was keeping its grips on a
knowledge, on land, on power, and it was just really ripe for a change, and here comes this troublemaking monk
in Germany, who is a professor in a little town up in the North called
Wittenberg, and he just didn’t understand it all. He marched all the way as a loyal
pilgrim, a faithful pilgrim, all the way down to Rome, he climbed the
Scala Santa, the sacred stairs, on his knees, he got to the top and he
just said, “I still don’t get it, I don’t know what’s all this, you know,
paying for forgiveness, and so on.” He went back and he hammered 95 points
he wanted to discuss on the door. And that was not allowable and he had to
take refuge, and he hit out, protected by a German Prince. At that time he wrote- -he translated the Bible into German,
which made things even worse for him and it opened up this crazy time called the
Reformation Wars. Europe was embroiled in a 100 years of fighting. By the end of the Reformation Wars, 1648,
with the Peace of Westphalia at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, they decided it
was religious freedom. Now that wasn’t religious freedom like we
know it, it was every king gets to decide what religion his people will be. That
was religious freedom. And the line between loyal to Rome and Protestant, is
remarkably close to the line between the Roman Empire and barbarian, okay. North of that Roman line, that’s where
the Protestant church was. I find that quite thought provoking. Now Martin
Luther could not have succeeded, guys before him got burned at the stake, but
Martin Luther was along the same time as Gutenberg, when you could print stuff up
economically. And you could print your ideas up, and you can hand out these
little brochures, and leaflets, and booklets, and everybody could get on
board with you. And Martin Luther would have been burned also, had it not been
for a number of things, but one of them was the Gutenberg Printing Press.
After Martin Luther opened
up this can of worms, every Protestant Reformer got to carve
his own way to hell, that’s what they would say. And you had
Knox up in Scotland, and you had Calvin, and you had all sorts of reformers
packing the churches out, taking Europe by storm, and in a couple of years in
1517, we’re going to have the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, 1517,
2017. That’s going to be a big deal in Germany.
One thing the Reformation did was also overcome the lock of the church.
Henry VIII was in on this. He dissolved — he did the
dissolution of the monasteries. When you travel around England you’ll see all these
destroyed monasteries, all of them destroyed
in the 1500’s when Henry VIII decided to ruin
the power of the monasteries and take the power himself, making the people
Protestant Christians instead of Roman Catholic Christians. Every time there’s
chaos in the church, you’ve got people whitewashing the
other people’s art. Just like what’s going on the Muslim world today,
iconoclasm. You see a pre-Christian Catholic church,
suddenly it’s a Lutheran church or a Protestant church, and everything is
whitewashed. And all behind that white wash is Catholic painting. This is the church in Harlem, and if you
look at the column on the right, you see a patch that is revealed from when it
was all painted that way. And instead of all sorts of glorious statues and
paintings about Mary and the Saints, instead you got a giant
pipe organ, as the focus now is more on the
pulpit and on music. Great front and center pulpits and
glorious pipe organs. Iconoclasm. All through your travels you’re going to see
beautiful art defaced by people who disagree with that religion. You see it in the Ancient World, you see
it in more modern times, iconoclasm. It’s so sad to see beautiful
paintings with their faces crossed out, or their noses broken off, or whatever. That’s all part of that iconoclasm.
Now the church wasn’t going to
take this laying down, they responded with the Inquisition and
the Counter-Reformation. The Inquisition palace is in Spain. Spain was the
powerful army, the biggest, most important defender of the Roman Catholic Church
during the Reformation, and the center of all that was the big palace outside of
Madrid, El Escorial. El Escorial. You can see that, it’s the only building built in
that generation in Spain it was such a big project, and from there, a lot of the
Counter-Reformation was run. I mentioned, in the Sistine Chapel the
front painting was done by Michelangelo after the Reformation, and this is that
sort of Judgment Day Counter-Reformation art. All over
Catholic Europe you’ll find paintings in the churches showing angels coming down,
grabbing the scriptures that have been translated into the local language, and
then torching those scriptures, that’s not allowed, that’ll get you in
big big trouble. Finally after all that killing, it’s
called the First World War in a lot of ways because every nation was embroiled in it, Europe was exhausted. And it was mostly
fought on German soil because Germany was fragmented, and it was just
convenient to fight the battles there. A third of Germany was dead. it was just a horrible slaughter, and
finally they just said, “let’s just go to church and worship whatever way they
tell us.” And if a king was Protestant that was
gonna be it, and if a king was Catholic that was going to be it. You stepped into
church and you get this pro status quo art. You just gaze up at the ceiling, and
it opens up into heaven, and you get Baroque. Baroque is art for the church,
and Baroque is art for the divine monarchs, and Baroque is pro status quo
art. Baroque follows the Renaissance. When we think about Baroque, it was born in
Rome. And this is the Vatican, and that’s the arm of the Counter-Reformation.
Bernini was the first great artists of the Baroque Age, and Bernini designed the
Piazza San Pedro, which is the symbolic outstretched arms of the church to
welcome the people in to that protective circle. When we go into the St. Peter’s
Basilica, we see the glory of that Baroque spot, and we also find all over
Rome, in churches, this new theatrical art. You’ve actually got angels pulling open
the curtains, and people are tumbling out, and it’s just like onstage art. And it’s
just over the top, it’s emotional, a wonderful sort of
change after the cerebral Renaissance. Now we have emotional art, we have pro
status quo art, we have art that just says follow the church or follow the
king, and let’s stop fighting. Now in order to impress upon people in the
interest of the Church and in the interest of the divine monarch, you gotta control nature. In a beautiful
way, to have that energy, and that exuberance, and to control nature, is to
have a fountain. And a fountain would be a very popular tool in Baroque art.
And you’ve got beautiful fountains like this one of the Four Rivers, that is on
Piazza Navona, by Bernini. When we think of Baroque art, it’s gonna grab an
exciting moment. Here we have three different portrayals of David slaying
the giant. Early Renaissance, it’s this wonderful, elegant study in a
classical nude, Donatello. High Renaissance, humanism. David is sizing up the
giant, and he’s gonna, he’s gonna take him
with the help of God. Baroque, now it’s actually an action. That
stone is about to fly. See in Baroque they’re gonna capture the action. In
Renaissance it’s going to be composed and thoughtful. I’ve got my sling, I’ve got the hand of
God, I’ve got my rock, I’ve got my enemy, we’re gonna do this.
Baroque, it’s much more action. A perfect example of a Baroque theme
would be this wonderful statute by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese
in Rome, one of my favorite buildings in all of Europe because it’s filled with
masterpieces by Bernini, the father of the Baroque movement. These statues are just breathtaking.
And this one, this is Apollo chasing Daphne. And Bernini has captured just the
exciting moment in the mythological story when Apollo is running after
Daphne, he’s just about to jump on her,
he’s got all sorts of exciting ideas,
he can hardly wait, and in at that very
moment Daphne is turning into a tree. Branches
are sprouting from her fingers, roots are
sprouting from her toes, and Apollo is in for
one rude surprise. It’s that split second that Bernini is
capturing here in Apollo chasing Daphne, and that is classic, classic Baroque.
Don’t miss that when you’re in Rome. Baroque cannot stand a
simple straight line, Baroque wants to decorate
it over the top. Architecture would be all glittered and
gussied up, you’ve got lots of 3D, you’ll find a painting and then you’ll
have a stucco leg from the painting actually coming down over the cornice.
You’ll have, in this church in Rome, an actual false dome. If you sit in the
right spot in the nave it looks like the dome’s real, but when
you walk right under it, you can see it’s just painted on a flat roof. That would be just a classic baroque
sort of thing. Remember Baroque is political, and Baroque is religious. It is the tool, the propaganda tool of
the church that wants a pro status quo, and it’s the propaganda tool of the divine
monarch who tries to con his people into thinking, “God said I get to rule you
without any question, I am Louis XIII, you can call me the Sun King.
In fact on my medallions, the sun, the source of
all life and goodness, shines its beautiful energy onto me. And
that energy bounces off me, and it warms up the people of France, and you are
lucky I am here. I am the Sun King.” This is the divine monarch, he raises with
the sun ceremonially, and goes to sleep with the sun as the sun sets, and then he
comes out and play some more. But it’s just all on show, and you gotta
have art that really impresses people if you’re going to say, “God said I get a
rule you without any question.” If you’re a divine monarch, which was the standard,
the norm, throughout the Middle Ages, you better have an impressive house.
Louie invested half of the income of the entire country of France, the most
populous and most wealthy country in Europe. Half of the income of the entire
country of France to build his Palace at Versailles. He rerouted a river to power
his fountains. He could grow incredible gardens. Louie
head fountains nobody had ever seen, bursting all around through his gardens.
He had mirrors that nobody ever seen, so many mirrors glittering up his Hall of
Mirrors so you have the light reflecting in and
out. People could wander through these halls, they could wander and just see his
lifestyle on display in all the paintings, and just go, “you know he really
is an incredible guy we’re lucky to have a divine monarch ruling us. Only our king
can grow oranges in Paris.” They’re on wheels, he wheels ’em out on
sunny days, and his men wheel ’em back into the Orangerie when it’s cloudy and cold, Louie can do it. All the other kings in
Europe wanted to be like Louie. They would build their own palaces like Louie. Here’s the Schönbrunn for the
Habsburgs in Vienna, or you got the great royal palace in Madrid, or you’ve got the
Czar’s palace in St. Petersburg. All over the place you got knock-offs of Versailles, all decorated the same way. This is Baroque. Controlled exuberance. The art of divine monarchs, the whole
notion that society is divided into the haves and the have-nots, and God wants it
that way. This is so poignant. So poignant, when we think about the struggles
in our society and the things we’re trying to sort through, because along
with all these divine monarchs came finance ministers who were just as
wealthy, they didn’t have the divine power but they were just about as
wealthy. And when you travel around France and you go to the chateaux of the Loire and so on, you realize a lot of these incredible chateaux were not the king’s
chateaux, but they were the finance minister’s chateaux. The
hedge fund managers of the day, the guys
with their hands on the back workings of the economy. And
this is just one finance minister’s house. And you climb up to the top of his dome
and look at his backyard, and he clearly does not know what to do with all his
money. Our hedge fund managers have a tough time with their money today, the finance ministers back then we’re
just as obscenely wealthy. The artist you need to remember from the Baroque era,
one of them is Caravaggio. Caravaggio was a rough guy, he did his art with street
people in Rome being his models, and he gives everything a harsh 3-degree —
third-degree interrogator’s light. This sort of unforgiving look at the scene.
And here we have David with the head of Goliath, and Goliath is actually the head
of the artist, Caravaggio, with the mark of the stone
right there between the eyes. This is that kinda baroque energetic
emotional sort of art that is so exciting. When you look at Caravaggio
scenes, they’re sacred scenes portrayed in every day seamy, seedy,
street life terms in the streets of Rome, giving
it a special impact. Look for the work of Caravaggio.
When you go to Spain you’ll find the work of Velazquez. Velazquez is — was the
court painter. This is a self-portrait here when he’s doing Las Meninas. And
here’s one of the most famous and beloved pieces of art that you’ll find
anywhere. And we see the artist with his canvas painting the royal couple, but
this is the scene the royal couple would look at while they’re posing. And if you
look in the very back of the room you can see a mirror that shows the
reflection of the king and queen as they’re posing for Velasquez, with all
the kids of the court gathered to see what’s going on. And when we look at this,
we can almost step into the three-dimensional, and there in the
background you see the mirror reflecting the king and the queen posing for this
painting. What a delightful sort of mix, and is so realistic you can almost walk into
it. And now when we look closely at the brushwork we can see these artists have
done reality, you know. Raphael could do reality, now the artists are going to be
a little more slapdash with the brushwork to give you
a little more energy, without bogging down
on that photo detail. Remember, a painter like Velazquez, his
primary job, his bread and butter, is painting for the royal court, the royal family. So when the king wants
his son painted on a horse, you’re going to paint him looking really
good on a horse. This is a portrait of the prince in a way that the king would
have liked, and that’s what Velazquez was all about. But Velazquez had energy
to do people on the street, and he had some great slice-of-life art that you
will see when you go to the Prado in Madrid. Now in the north, in Belgium, you’ve got Rubens. And Rubens is one of
the most prolific painters you’ll find. You can go to his studio in Antwerp and
see where he had this just big room where he would crank out — Rubens would
paint what they called the “cartoon” and then his students would make the big
version, and then Rubens would come in and give what they called the “fury of
the brush,” and then they would ship it out to some aristocrat,
or some nobleman, or some bishops house —
palace, you see. And this was that sort of system of Baroque,
cranking out masterpieces. To me, this picture by Rubens characterizes the
energy of the Baroque art. Now if you compare that to Mona Lisa, you can see
Renaissance composure, and balance, and thoughtfulness, and Baroque theatrical
exuberance, jump off the stage exuberance. That’s what these artists needed to do
to keep their patrons happy. You remember they are done to make their
patrons feel good, and well fed women with light complexions were considered
elegant and high class, and they were painted beautifully. And you have these
Rubenesque women that show up in paintings from this period.
Remember this is art for the kings and
for the church, for the Pope. When you go north now,
in the post-Reformation Europe, you have the Netherlands, for instance, which is
actually a republic Protestant state. No king and no Pope,
no bishops, no nobles. You’ve got, you’ve got
merchants and big shots in the city, and this is a trauma for
painters, because you don’t have your traditional patrons. They have to scramble now, and who are
they going to paint for? They’re going to paint for the Rotary Club, they’re going to paint
for the mayor, they’re going to paint for the
rich businessmen, they’re going to paint for middle-class
people with small no-name paintings. You go to a art gallery in the Netherlands
and you see a lot of little paintings by names you don’t recognize, and you want
to go, “where’s your big guns?” This is a new market,
and it was a affordable market for
merchants in the city. We needed small, affordable, un-preachy
art, and that’s what you get when you don’t have the Pope and you don’t
have the king to do it. Now the famous artists would do well, they would earn
their bread and butter by painting big shots portraits. This would be a
beautiful painting of a rich merchant who really loves his wife. Everything is there. His devotion, the big
ring on her finger, he’s put his hand over his heart, she’s got this
wonderful ruff, it’s just a gorgeous portrait of a man and his wife. You
wouldn’t have some saint or some king overlooking your dinner table, no way.
You’re going to have art that just makes
you feel good about your values and your hard work.
You’re gonna have still lifes. Still lifes are a beautiful beautiful
genre in the Netherlands. Again, Protestant, no king art. Still lifes that just remind anybody
that comes to dinner, this man has some very good pewter. This man knows how to feed his family
well. This is a beautiful household, hard work, that Protestant work ethic shows
around here. You’ve got themes that are folk wisdom, not sort of big preachy
stuff, but folk wisdom. One of my favorite artists
in the genre is Jan Steen. This painting would
be the danger of luxury, how affluence will rot out your values.
And here we got filthy rich people whose lives are falling apart. Another painting might be, I don’t know
exactly the name of this, but it’s something like “parents be aware, your
children are modeling their lives after how you live your life.” And here we have people that are very
hedonistic, and the kids are there, paying attention. In the window you can
see a little boy learning how to smoke, and in the foreground you see two little
girls learning how to drink, and they’re just going down the same messed up road,
and the parents better wake up. That would be your preachy Jan Steen
Dutch kind of art. One of the most exquisite painters of this period is
Vermeer. There’s only a handful of Vermeers in
captivity, you’ll see four of them in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. But Vermeer is
beautiful, just sumptuous, exquisite, intimate art. A
milkmaid, nothing fancy, just a humble milkmaid in
a quiet moment, you can almost hear the milk pouring
into the bowl. Beautiful art, you’ll see that when you’re in the Netherlands. Rembrandt earned his money — that’s a self
portrait of a young Rembrandt — painting patrons, this man and his wife. This is called the Jewish Bride, and we
have all of those details that would make the patron very thankful for this
beautiful art masterpiece. This would be the Draper’s Guild, and
this is how the painters, like Franz Hals and Rembrandt, would earn their
keep. They would paint the big shots, all
painted equally because they all paid equally, but you still want to have a
believable scene, somebody just walked in and went, “hey you
guys look over here,” and everybody’s caught
in a candid way. It looks convivial but it also looks equal.
Now the standard “Socratine” type equality in the paintings
was sort of the bread and butter, or the
standard portraits. Rembrandt was a bigger creative spirit
than that, and he did the Night Watch. And when you
look at the Night Watch you’ve got a group portrait, but this group portrait
is not, you know, short guys in front, it’s not everybody equally lit and
equally portrayed, how well they are portrayed is dictated by the scene, the
composition that Rembrandt has in mind. And not everybody here was happy with
the way they were portrayed, it just wasn’t equal. Now I don’t know if it’s
too simplistic to say that meant he didn’t get much work in his later years,
but the fact is, Rembrandt was more creative than what was good for his
career as a portrait artist, and the consequence was he spent his last year’s
pretty much in a, you know, in a desolate sort of run down, depressing
sort of situation. Didn’t have any work. This is a self-portrait of a “I’ve seen
it all” sort of Rembrandt overlooking the ruins of what was a very successful
career. And he spent his last year’s painting for himself, basically. And that
freed up his beautiful creative spirit, and we get a lot of Rembrandt’s
masterpieces that are really not done for the taste of his rich patrons, but just done for the love of
Rembrandt’s style of art. Here we have Jeremiah Lamenting
the Destruction of Israel [Jerusalem], a very
powerful psychological portrait. Here we have Peter denying that
he knows who Jesus is. Talk about a powerful psychological
thing. Peter, Jesus’ his right-hand man, saying, “I don’t know him,” as the Roman
soldiers quiz him. And here we have Peter confronted by the
Romans, and in the background you can see Jesus looking over shoulder, realizing
what’s going on. Beautiful piece of art, a masterpiece by Rembrandt. Now the Baroque movement gets into a
frilly extreme, as art movements do, and Baroque over-the-top is Rococo.
Delightful irresponsibility. Giddy, intentionally
tripping, unbalanced, giggling, flirting, Rococo.
And Rococo is, you know, pink cheeks everywhere. It’s the “let them eat cake art.” You know,
when Marie Antoinette was out in her little peasant hamlet, telling the
peasants, “just make do,” she was in this Rococo world. And that
was sort of the last straw in so many ways for the old regime. So here at the dawn of the French
Revolution, we see the end of the Baroque Era. We still have Europe run by big
families, the Habsburgs, and the Hohenzollerns, and the
Romanovs, and the Bourbons, and we have
no Germany, and we have no Italy, and we have
things that are going to start to kick into gear
into the modern age. We have this pro-status-quo elite
society, but at the same time we have the next generation, and talk about a
generation gap. What’s just around the corner is the
people rising up, as the city folk are going to just bust into that feudal pie,
and do some violent readjustment. That’s the Age of Revolution, and it took
a revolution to cut off the head of the king and that whole old regime notion,
that some people are born to be rulers, and the rest of us are born to be ruled.
And this shot is just a reminder that museums can be exhausting. And when you
go to the museum, we hope we can help you out, we’ve worked
very hard to bring you material to help you enjoy the museum while you’re still
alive and well, okay. I know I’m good for about two hours in a museum, and we’ve
worked very hard. This is called the Victim of the Louvre, at the longest
gallery in Europe. We’ve worked very
hard to make the art fun and meaningful,
and that is in our book “Europe 101.” This book I wrote after
— with the beautiful help of my friend Gene Openshaw, and it’s written after 25
years of tour guiding, developing a sense of what people need to know, and also
what they don’t need to know. We know how to make the art come to life. We’ve got 100 people working at
Europe the Back Door, we’ve got guidebooks for every country in Europe, these come with a passion for art and
history, and we have an app now that gives you self-guided
tours to your 20 greatest historic walks, and its
20 greatest museums. This is a chance for you to take the
tours that we give our tours, but you don’t need to take the tour. You can
download the app, it’s absolutely free, and have me being able to narrate for
you whatever visit you want to check out. These are just — they — I’m just so excited
about how these can help people enjoy all the art we’ve been sharing today. So
I hope in your upcoming trip you can use the Rick Steves Audio Europe
app. I want to remind you that the biggest part of our business these days
is our tour program. Each year we take 15,000 or 18,000 people on about 700 different tours around Europe. We have 35
different itineraries, and each of these itineraries is designed to give you
maximum travel thrills for every mile, minute, and dollar in your upcoming trip.
That’s what we’re all about at Europe Through the Back Door, and a
fundamental part of that is making the history, and making the art come to life.
We can sit with you on the rubble of Rome, as I was doing back when I was a
college kid with our first groups, and we can make it make sense. We can bring you into the Vatican, and we
can explain how that Laocoon inspired the artists of the Renaissance, and we can
bring you into the greatest galleries of Europe and make that art come to life. I hope that we can be a part of your
travels that way. I want to remind you we’ve got a lot of art covered in our TV
shows. We’ve produced well over 100 shows, you can watch them for free
anytime at If you’re visiting any destination in
Europe, certainly you can find the TV episode on that place, and in there
will take you into the museums, take you into the palaces, and do our best to
explain it to you. You can travel with us on Facebook if
you just get on board at Rick Steves on facebook, we’d love to have you along, This is my personal joy. I’ve got about a
quarter of a million people now that follow me as I get to
share an intimate, candid, behind-the-scenes
look at our work. That’s ongoing at Facebook and at our
website at There’s a world of
travel information there to help make your travels
more meaningful. So this was “Renaissance and Baroque,”
that’s part two, and we are, after this, ready to step into the modern world.
Thank you very much, and happy travels. Thank you, thank you very much.


  • abstractheory1

    Wow! Great presentation. Very informative and enlightening

  • eric erickson

    Great lecture learned a lot.

  • Mook Manatwisanwong

    So impressive. i took years for western art history classes and you just summed them up in a few hours.
    thank you for refreshing my knowledge

  • Obizzy4shizzy

    What a great lecture. It's telling that this video has so few views. With all of our technological advances and richness of information, many of us opt to remain uninterested in the larger world around us. Too bad.

  • Duan Torruellas

    rick is great , i use to watdh him on pbs along with sister wendy.

  • RāMBō

    im currently in art history II and instead of buying a 300$ textbook i just watched this video so thanks!!

  • Robert De Groot

    Probably the most entertaining talk about art I've heard. Interesting and impressive. I'll definitely download the tour guide when I'm visiting musea in the future!

  • Foreverlyn

    I so greatly appreciate this being online. I remember watching Rick Steve's The Best of Europe as a little kid (we didn't have cable, so I watched PBS). So crazy to be a freshman college student now taking my first Art History course and to look online for lectures to get me informed on the topic and come across such a gem. This really gets you excited to learn even more about the great pieces of work that Europe produced. It's a touch on so many topics that it gives you a sounding board to jump off of and learn more on your own. I was never bored. This man has a talent for educating, I think. He's engaged and therefor he is engaging. Really great.

  • Sheila Macpherson

    I know just a little about most of these artists. I did not know the context behind most of them. He just brought together so much of what i did know that feel like i completed an art history class.

  • rodney adams

    look like do a ted x talk

  • Alan1234x


  • Azay Deelay

    I am an American living in Italy and I would never dream of going back to the USA. Nothing there for me. ITALY is a living museum and I see that every day as I walk the streets of Venice, where I live. Art and culture is in the very air we breathe here. And I just can't get enough. You all come and see for yourselves what a magnificent country this is.

  • lalala lilili

    I hope there are youtube's channel as good as this one, but about the Japanese History. perhaps someone can recommend me some good channel? I love history!

  • Echa

    there so much art and the context in this lecture than the previous one. amazing. just makes me even more want to go to italy 🙁

  • stef Wald

    i am so glad i found this channel. thank you for doing such a great job!


    very nice!!!! I am impressed!!!!

  • Диана Малиновская

    Great content, interesting to watch and very straight forward!

  • Zoe Fang

    BRILLIANT lecture!!! <3

  • Zoe Fang

    I've been to the Uffizi. One of the best moments of my life <33 I never wanted to leave

  • RaymondTVinyl

    Seriously enjoy this series!!! And truly learning a lot. Thank you!

  • catherine helen Carter

    As a European ( English living in Italy) and having done history of modern art at Uni many years ago I have recently become interested in learning more about antiquity, medieval and Renaissance art. Rick Steves gives a very accessible lecture and can give you a nice introduction Loved the American pronunciation of certain words!!

  • Courtney Miller

    SO engaging and informative.

  • Inna Demchenko Frelih

    Amazing! So easy to remember and understand after your explication.
    JUST A LITTLE REMARK:year 1550 Russia doesn’t exist , its name was Moscovia. Its very important! Russia as political name starts to exist just in 18th century, before it was Moscovia

  • Argha Deb

    29:18 Michelangelo was satisfied??? highly doubted… he was one of the great name ever existed .. n ARTIST NEVER SATISFY.. its not possible…

  • Ms. Christian

    GREAT!  Informative, insightful, adept, robust and delightful teaching! Will watch again and again so it all soaks in!    Abundant thanks!     You're wonderful!

  • Artist

    Michelangelo's Florence Pieta is my very favorite sculpture. Titian, Caravaggio, Leonardo and Rembrandt are among my most favorite artists! Thank you for this wonderful art video on the Italian Renaissance and Baroque!

  • Alexander Ro

    What is the best books on the Renaissance era


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