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Worth Watching
  • Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    Empires - The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance
    A fascinating and highly entertaining look at one of the most important families of the Renaissance era--the Medici.
  • Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)
    Sister Wendy - The Complete Collection (Story of Painting / Grand Tour / Odyssey / Pains of Glass)

    “Sister Wendy Beckett has transformed public appreciation of art through her astonishing knowledge, insight and passion for painting and painters.” This set includes Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, Sister Wendy's Odyssey, and Sister Wendy's Grand Tour. Simultaneously delightful and scholarly--this is a must have for anyone interested in art history.

  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
    Exit Through the Gift Shop
    When British stencil artist Banksy traveled to Los Angeles to work, he came across obscure French filmmaker Thierry Guetta and his badly organized collection of videotapes involving the activities of graffiti artists. Inspired, Banksy assembled them with new footage to create this talked-about documentary, and the result is a mind-boggling and odd film (so strange as to be thought a hoax by some) about outsider artists and the definition of art itself.
  • The Impressionists
    The Impressionists
    A dramatization of the Impressionist movement as seen through the eyes of Claude Monet. Highly entertaining and informative.
  • The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    The Impressionists: The Other French Revolution
    A very personal and revealing look at the personalities that created Impressionism.

Donatello: An Artist of Vision and Influence

Donatello - St. Mary Magdalene - c. 1457 - Polychrome wood, height 188 cm - Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, FlorenceDonato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (ca. 1386-1466) was the master of sculpture in marble, wood and bronze during the Early Italian Renaissance. Universally known as Donatello, “he broke ground by introducing new aesthetics in line with the time's flourishing move toward Humanism - a movement that emphasized a departure from medieval scholasticism and favored deep immersion into the humanities, resulting in art that no longer focused solely on the secular realm of religion but explored man's place in the natural world. Donatello's signature lifelike and highly emotional works would place him as one of the most influential artists in 15th century Italy.”

During the Middle Ages and beyond, the person of Mary Magdalene was conflated in western tradition with Mary of Bethany and the unnamed "sinful woman" who anoints Jesus's feet in Luke 7:36-50. This led to a widespread but inaccurate belief that she was a repentant prostitute or promiscuous woman. This identification of Mary Magdalene was a major controversy in the years leading up to the Reformation and some Protestant leaders rejected it. During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church used Mary Magdalene as a symbol of penance.

In 1969, the identification of Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany and the "sinful woman" was removed from the General Roman Calendar, but the view of her as a former prostitute has persisted in popular culture. It certainly was the belief held during Donatello’s time.

In the tradition known to the artist, for thirty years Mary fasted, living as a hermit in the wilderness of southern France. Once famed for her beauty, by the end she was wrapped only in her long hair. She was exemplary of the renunciation of a sinful life, exchanging it for repentance, pious remorse and prayer.

It is widely accepted among secular historians that, like Jesus, Mary Magdalene was a real historical figure. Nonetheless, very little is known about her life. She left behind no writings of her own, nor were any works later forged under her name, as was common for the other disciples. She is never mentioned in any of the Pauline epistles or in any of the general epistles. The earliest and most reliable sources about her life are the three Synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, which were all written during the first century CE.


Did You Know?

The globally famous “Mona Lisa” portrait by Leonardo da Vinci was meant to be spelt ‘Monna’, the Italian word for “my lady”. 


The Harrowing of Hell

Anastasis (Harrowing of Hell) - c. 1310-20 - Fresco - Church of the Holy Savior of Chora/Kariye Museum, Istanbul, Turkey (click photo for larger image)The “Anastasis” (or “Harrowing of Hell”) was a subject frequently depicted in the Late Byzantine era. It drew upon the Christian tradition contending that on Holy Saturday, between his Crucifixion and his Resurrection, Christ rescued Adam and Eve from hell. Here, Christ, dressed in white and surrounded by a luminous full body halo, grasps Adam's and Eve's wrists as he pulls them from their tombs on either side of him.

About the work, art historians H.W. Janson and Anthony F. Janson described it as, “…a magnificently expressive image of divine triumph. Such dynamism had been unknown in the earlier Byzantine tradition. This style, which was related to slightly earlier developments in manuscript painting, was indeed revolutionary.” It was also an outcome of humanism's influence that had begun in the Middle Byzantine period.

Poet and scholar Theodore Metochites (also Emperor Andronicus II's prime minster), restored the church and commissioned the paintings to reflect religious narrative and "the growing Byzantine fascination with storytelling."


Louise Bourgeois and the Spider

Louise Bourgeois - Spider - 1995 - Steel sculpture - 131 in. x 188 in. x 134 in. (332.74 cm x 477.52 cm x 340.36 cm) - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) San Francisco, CA (click photo for larger image)French-born American Abstract Expressionist sculptor, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) created works that were heavily influenced by traumatic psychological events from her childhood, particularly her father's infidelity. “Bourgeois transformed her experiences into a highly personal visual language through the use of mythological and archetypal imagery, adopting objects such as spirals, spiders, cages, medical tools, and sewn appendages to symbolize the feminine psyche, beauty, and psychological pain.” (The Art Story)

Louise Bourgeois created the first of her darkly compelling spider sculptures in the mid-1990s, when she was in her eighties. She used the spider as the central protagonist in her art during the last decades of her life. For the artist, whose work explored themes of childhood memory and loss, the spider carried associations of a maternal figure. Bourgeois associated the "Spider" series with her own mother, who died when the artist was 21. From drawings to large-scale installations, Bourgeois's spiders appear as looming and powerful protectresses, yet are delicate and vulnerable.


Quote of the Day

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” - Ansel Adams