In each episode historian Simon Schama treats, in his own erudite, unconventional and somewhat socially engaged style, a work of art from a great master. He concentrates not just on the art...
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Nine-part series telling the story of art from the dawn of human history to the present day, for the first time on a global scale. It is now nearly half a century since Kenneth Clark's ... See full summary »
Sir Kenneth Clarke guides us through the ages exploring the glorious rise of civilisation in western man. Beginning with the bleakness of the dark ages to the present day, we consider ... See full summary »
The Story of the Jews is a television series, in five parts, presented by British historian Simon Schama. It was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Two in September 2013 and in the ... See full summary »
In each episode historian Simon Schama treats, in his own erudite, unconventional and somewhat socially engaged style, a work of art from a great master. He concentrates not just on the art history as such, but mainly on the relationship between the work and the historical context of its creation, as this touches the significance of and vision on the subject as well as the life of the artist: where and when did he produce it, why, for which destination...Written by
Schama's series is highly watchable, and I enjoyed his History of Britain as well, but I must vehemently protest to his Bernini episode, which is, admittedly, visually rich, masterly filmed - but Schama makes the unforgivable mistake of basing his biographical material (which takes up half of the episode) on 17th century muckraker Filippo Baldinucci. Baldinucci, who aspired to be another Vasari, generously lent his ear to all the most envious gossip about the artist, and he went out of his way to be spectacular. Thus, we are treated to the disgraceful story of a megalomaniac Bernini whose genius went to his head, who nearly killed his own brother in a jealous rage, and arranged for a bravo to slash the face of Costanza Bonarelli, Bernini's unfaithful mistress, to ribbons, as Schama so vividly puts it. A Bernini whom even his own mother detested. All of this, however, is based on Baldinucci's low-minded attempt to vilify Bernini, and is written, not as Schama seems to suggest, by a biographer who closely followed his subject around in Rome, but by a biographer who was two years old at the time of the Bonarelli scandal related in so vivid details, and Baldinucci's scandalous book was not published until two years after Bernini's death - for very good reasons. It is totally inadmissible. Even the unsympathetic Pope Innocent X was forced to exclaim: "They say bad things about Bernini, but he is a great and rare man". Man - not only artist. For a truthful biography on Bernini, we must go to Howard Hibbard (who carefully gleans from Baldinucci all that is trustworthy). Among the despicable features of Bernini, Schama & Baldinucci report that he never credited his co-workers - the people doing the hard work for the artist - but which artist did? Michelangelo? Rembrandt? Da Vinci? Certainly not. An art historian like Schama should know that the artist was always turned into a brand name, and never laid claim to wield the chisel or the brush himself.
It's a shame about Schama's episode, for his treatment of Bernini as an artist is admirable, and I do agree that Bernini - as Schama says - transcended dualism and deliberately put erotic aspects into his portraits of saints, simply to show a transport that people can relate to. But the biographical yellow press diatribe of the program, collected with immoderate glee from fishwife Baldinucci - really, historian Simon Schama ought to know better!
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