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(upbeat piano music)
Voiceover: We're in the National Gallery in Washington
looking at a lovely little Filippo Lippi
of a "Madonna and Child" from about 1440.
I suppose, this just is so lovely to me.
The beautiful soft curves of the headdress
that she wearing framing her face.
Voiceover: There's a kind of pathos in her face.
Madonna's so often shown beautiful but troubled
but her sense of fear and sadness comes across
in such an incredibly tender and intimate way.
And the way her hand holds him back protectively
this is that terrible pointed moment.
Voiceover: And looks out at us too,
in a sort of way saying,
"We all know what's going to happen."
"We all know what this means,
"but look at the price that I pay for this
"as a mother."
Voiceover: A little scorn.
Voiceover: The other thing that I see with this
is so obviously the early renaissance.
The lessons of the 15th century.
Mary becoming so much more human in
the ways we just described.
Christ looking so much more like a baby
than he did painted 100 years earlier.
Voiceover: The large head, chubby,
not looking like a small man.
Voiceover: But the artist, here Lippi, being
comfortable with the notion that here we have God,
this divine figure,
in the body of a child.
Now he's looking down and slightly to his right.
Which suggests the original placement of
Voiceover: And instead of that flat gold
background that we'd have had 100 years earlier
Lippi's created little niche for Mary to occupy
So we have some sense of space around her.
Very classical looking.
And then that shadow that her body casts to the right.
Voiceover: So we have a sense of real
natural light coming from the left
casting a shadow.
A sense of her convincing three dimensionality here.
She's not a flat ethereal figure anymore.
Voiceover: It's really interesting.
She has that sense of physicality.
And this is such an expression of the 15th century,
in the classical architecture.
But also you are absolutely right
in the way in which the shadow actually
follows the complex contours of that architecture.
You're absolutely right.
Voiceover: The lesson of Masaccio.
But on the other hand there's a kind of softness
and lyrical quality to Lippi that
isn't in Masaccio.
To those beautiful little curves
around her face...
Voiceover: Or the Diaphanes-ness of that vail
is just gorgeous...
Voiceover: You can see how Lippi is
This lovely gold foreshortened halo.
Although now that gold is disappearing
and the halo is disappearing.
It's just sort of speckled with gold.
Voiceover: In fact all the color is almost
gem-like with a kind of gentle radiance.
Voiceover: I love that he's on this little ledge,
like a window ledge.
Voiceover: Sometimes that's been read
as a reference to the eventual entombment.
But she holds him aloft from the tomb.
You know she protects him from it
with a kind of pillow.
Voiceover: Hard to remember when you're
looking at a painting in a museum,
that it's probably been damaged or
suffered some conservation efforts,
that may have not been as good as
we might have hoped.
Voiceover: Well the painting's almost 600 years old.
And it's gorgeous.
Voiceover: It still is.
(upbeat piano music)