Raphael's Madonna of The Meadow is the focus of this amazing program
I've lamented previously, there are not enough documentaries on Raphael! It seems like someone was listening. Recently, a new series titled Renaissance Revolution, hosted by Matthew Collings aired on BBC 2. The series will eventually also include episodes on Piero Della Francesca and the mind blowing work of Netherlandish artist Hieronymous Bosch.
The first program can be viewed via BBCs iPlayer, but this is of no use to people outside the UK. To redress this, I'm pleased to present the program below.
Collings' style is quite interesting. Perhaps not as involved in historical background as Andrew Graham-Dixon, he instead takes us on a journey into the actual techniques the old masters used. Those who have studied art in some form will be familiar with these concepts - those who haven't will enjoy seeing Collings zoom in, pan back and highlight the many wonderful little tricks employed by artists to bring their masterpieces to life. The deep zoom employed highlighting finer touches made me think of the way digital artists work, often using deep digital zoom to do details on their pieces, and then panning out to observe the overall effect.
Something that always delights me is learning something new about a work I thought I new a fair bit about! Collings achieved this for me in this program, highlighting that Michelangelo, depicted as grumpy philosopher Heraklitis in School of Athens, was never in the original drawing! It is suggested that Raphael added him in after being allowed a sneak peek at the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo's rival Donato Bramante. Fascinating stuff!
Of additional interest is why Raphael chose to do this? As outlined in a previous entry at 3PP, this fresco contains portraits of Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael himself - who stands off in the corner smiling confidently at the viewer. Some view the portraits of the elder masters as an homage, whereas others like to view it as a swaggering gesture by the younger artist - showing that his style is the culmination of their preceding achievements in the art of composition. I like to think that there is probably a bit of both happening - deference mixed in with swagger.
Michelangelo is famously missing from this preparatory drawing for School of Athens
I advise everyone to watch this program and avail yourselves to the amazing character of Raphael. I simply love that even as a young man he had a burning desire to learn, emulate and improve upon his peers and predecessors. It is very much a reflection of the scientific method being applied to the practise of art, which I personally find enthralling. It also makes me all the more perturbed at those talented miscreants, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, for their childish choice of name.
Edit: BBC iPlayer is no longer showing this program, nor it is it available for purchase from their store. Here is an excerpt: