Margaret (pling) wrote,

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The Medici: Makers of Modern Art; Joanna Lumley in the Land of the Northern Lights

No on-going series to watch this week, having finished A History of Christianity last week & also no more Pop Britannia recorded (disappointingly, coz we had another episode on disc but it turned out to be a repeat of one of the two we'd just seen). As we seem to have lined up half of the current BBC4 & BBCHD output to record (they're doing a Norman season, it's got lots of cool looking history programmes!) we need to free up some space on the magic box & so picked two standalone HD programmes to watch & delete.

First up was a programme about the Medici family in Florence, and how their patronage affected the history of art - presented by Andrew Graham-Dixon who looked familiar & it turns out was the same guy who did the Art of Spain series that we watched a couple of episodes of while my parents were visiting. Good presenter - I like his manner & the he gets all enthusiastic about the art side of it without getting pretentious, although he did get a bit carried away at times ("changed civilisation itself", really?). The programme started with the origins of the Medici family as bankers in the market of Florence who became rich & successful through lending money. This was frowned upon by the Church of the time - the poem Dante's Inferno places usurers in the 7th circle of Hell, and this was the initial driving force behind the Medici commissioning of art. It was a common practice at the time for people to buy indulgences from the Pope, or to pay for works of art/buildings to glorify God & thus be absolved of one's sins. So Giovani di Bici was involved in the commissioning of a great pair of gates in the town & Cosimo the Elder paid for the construction of an entire monastery complete with frescos by Fra Angelico on the walls for the monks to meditate upon. There's also a sign over Cosimo's cell in the monastery saying, effectively, that the Pope promises all his sins were forgiven because he'd had this built - the hardnosed businessman had got it in writing! Later Medicis (including Lorenzo il Magnifico) were more into the art for art's sake alone, moving away from Christian imagery intended to placate God & towards imagery intended to show off what rich and powerful people they were. And as the programme was showing us some of the very pagan paintings in a villa outside Florence J started to wonder how they got away with it in what was quite a religious era - and then the programme moved on to the backlash against the family, with a monk orchestrating the Bonfire of the Vanities. And we saw an interview with a modern-day member of the same order, fervently explaining that the paintings etc weren't burnt because they were beautiful but because they were evil and would have bad effects on people's souls. I rather got the impression he felt we should still be burning such things, and wasn't it a shame that the Medicis had come back to power after that? ;)

Over all an interesting programme, and lots of cool paintings & architecture to look at :) And J had deja vu the whole way through coz the scenery we were shown was part of where the game Assassin's Creed II had taken place, and the buildings were buildings he'd had to climb over etc ;)

Second programme of the evening was Joanna Lumley going to Norway to see the Northern Lights, which apparently had always been a dream of hers since she was a little girl in Malaysia. She's very fun to watch, whether she's talking to the Lord of the Manor of a small fishing village, or sitting in a tent with a Saami elder singing a joik, or staying overnight in a hotel made out of ice. I also liked what she was saying as she was drawing a little picture of the fishing village ... "Do the things that please you & if you're not very good at them, Get Better!". The footage of the Aurora Borealis itself was awesome, too :)
Tags: art, art history, history, italy, norway, travelogue, tv

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