Mantegna, Saint Sebastian

Mantegna, Saint Sebastian


(“I Don’t Want to Leave You”
by Royalty Free Music Crew) – [Voiceover] The nude had
been off limits for 1000 years. – [Voiceover] In the middle ages, the only opportunity the artists had to paint or sculpt the nude,
was to do Adam and Eve. But with the renaissance, we
have this renewed interest in the human body, and artists looking for
opportunities to paint it. – What we’re looking
at is Andrea Mantegna’s very small painting of Saint Sebastian. It’s in the Kunsthistorisches
Museum in Vienna. And it’s this tall, thin, painting, that is completely improbable, and in some ways it is
just an elaborate ruse to be able to paint the human body. But of course Mantegna
was also deeply in love with all things classical. – And both of those things
are really in evidence here. – Look at all the fragments
of sculpture and architecture that come from his study of Ancient Rome. – And of course the figure
of Saint Sebastian himself looks like an Ancient
Greek or Roman sculpture. According to legend, Saint
Sebastian was in the employ of the ancient Roman Emperor Diocletian, who didn’t know that
Sebastian was a Christian. – Apparently Sebastian came to the aid of two other Christians
who had been found out. And, therefore his own
Christianity was revealed. And he was ordered to be
executed when he refused to renounce his Christianity. And so, he was shot with arrows, but he survived that attack. – Right, and was later clubbed to death. – It’s easy for us in the
21st Century to forget how little was known about the human body. What knowledge had once
existed from Ancient Greece and Rome, had largely been lost. – Here was a generation that
was rediscovering the body for the first time in 1000 years. – You couldn’t go and
buy a book on anatomy. You couldn’t look something up on the web. This was a time when
rediscovering the body meant an investigation of the body from scratch. With very little knowledge
left from antiquity. – And the understanding of
the body in the ancient world like Contrapposto, is
just being rediscovered in this century. And look at the way in which
the S curve of the body is accentuated here. You can really see an artist who is studying ancient sculpture. In fact, one could probably
argue that the arrows themselves almost function as diagramming lines, that help us see the
shifting axis of the body. But there are also
funny anachronisms here. Things are disjointed in terms of time. Since Sebastian is being martyred by an Ancient Roman Emperor, at a time when Ancient Rome
is at the height of its power. And yet, what the artist
is showing us here is Ancient Roman Architecture in ruins. The way it looked in Mantegna’s own time. – And he’s clearly relishing
the beauty of those ruins as ruins. – It’s as if the faith of Christianity has outlived the mighty Roman Empire. – Right, which lays in ruins around the feet of the Saint. – Here’s an artist who
is in part responsible for creating the art that we know of, as the Early Renaissance. And characteristic of that moment, we see someone who is giving us as much visual information as possible. Look at the precision even in the buildings of extreme distance. That beautiful atmospheric perspective. That careful delineation of form, of mass. – Right, modelling so we’ve got a sense of the three-dimensionality of the body, of the light coming from the left. We can see Mantegna’s
use of linear perspective in the tiles on the floor. In a way this has everything
we expect of the Renaissance. – This is bringing together
those fragments from antiquity that were just being rediscovered. This is trying to place
these figures in a world that we can occupy. – And a vast landscape. Pehaps we see the archers retreating on a road in the background, and a whole city that looks very much like an Ancient Roman city. – Here’s an artist that is central to the Northern Italian tradition. Somebody who is working in Venice, working in Padua, understands what’s taking
place in Flourence, and is just such an exemplar
of this reinvention, of ancient humanism. (“I Don’t Want to Leave You”
by Royalty Free Music Crew)

6 Replies to “Mantegna, Saint Sebastian”

  1. Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker, thank you so much for passing your knowledge to the world. I've been following this channel for about 2 or 3 years now, and as an art student hopefully finishing university this year, this channel has helped me lots of times and continues to be super valuable.
    Thank you. β™₯

  2. at 1:25 you state that "it's easy for us in the 21st century to forget how little was known about the human body; what knowledge had once existed from ancient Greece and Rome had largely been lost." It's frightening to wonder if history could repeat itself.

    what keeps us from slipping back into what they slipped in to?

  3. These videos are so great, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all of your content. Particularly when you point out symbols and explain which parts of the Christian canon they are in reference to. It has inspired me to read the bible which has helped me understand my own culture much better. Thank you.
    I'm not particularly conspiracy-minded but I think the best evidence for the Illuminati reptiles is the fact that your channel doesn't have trillions of subscribers.
    Keep fighting the reptiles.

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