The Private Life Of A Masterpiece Review

April 2, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

THE PRIVATE LIFE OF A MASTERPIECE: Saturday 3rd April, BBC2, 6.55pm ALERT ME

While the rest of us lazy atheists are guzzling lots of highly marketed chocolate this weekend, spare a thought for poor old Jesus – there were no Easter eggs in 30 AD.

But a lack of chocolate would probably have been one of the last things on the Messiah’s mind as he was nailed to that cross. His thoughts would have been dominated by the excruciating nature of his injuries, just ask Mel Gibson.

Capturing all the agony and raw emotion of the crucifixion, Rogier Van Der Weyden’s Descent From The Cross was essentially a less anti-Semitic version of The Passion for the 15th century.

The first thing you notice about the painting in question is its uniquely irregular shape, but according to some very enthusiastic experts, this weird canvas serves a very important purpose. Squashing these nine characters into such a small space makes the painting almost inescapable to viewers in Madrid’s Museo del Prado.

This is about as interesting as a programme about the history of a painting can be. Hearing about a how some battle-axe bullied the church which owned it into trading it for a new church organ was quite interesting and listening to a ‘bereavement expert’ talk about the quality of Mary Magdalene’s tears is another highlight.

But the real hub of this documentary is that despite the fact that all these people were referring to this as a masterpiece, I had never heard of it or its creator. I don’t profess to be a connoisseur of the arts but I certainly know my Green Dancers from my Guernicas and yet this little gem had eluded me.