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Personal response

Authors, historians, and media personalities give their take on inspirational works from the collection.

More from Personal response (12 videos)

  • Anne Hollander: The princess is not even watching and she is wearing her princess costume, such as she might wear in a pageant, with a little scarf such as a Venetian princess might wear, all around her neck and behind her, however, she is wearing what seems to be her cloak. 

    But this object is not a cloak; it is a piece of expressive drapery rather like an expressive phrase of music wrapped around her in various ways to raise the emotional temperature of the picture. It whips out to sea instead of being whipped by the sea breeze, it wraps her around her hips, it slides over one of her arms and it whips out behind her in a way that no real cloak could do. And it is there simply to raise the temperature, to indicate the kind of turbulence of her feeling and her combination of hope and fear about the dragon.

    Quick insight

    Historian Anne Hollander on 'Saint George and the Dragon'

    About the video:

     

    Look at the impact of the expressive drapery in Tintoretto's painting of 'Saint George and the Dragon' with art and costume historian Anne Hollander.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, 'Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting'

     

    Find out more about Jacopo Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, about 1555

    About the video:

     

    Look at the impact of the expressive drapery in Tintoretto's painting of 'Saint George and the Dragon' with art and costume historian Anne Hollander.

     

    From the National Gallery DVD, 'Fabric of Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting'

     

    Find out more about Jacopo Tintoretto, Saint George and the Dragon, about 1555

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    Quick insight

    Historian Anne Hollander on 'Saint George and the Dragon'

    Movie
  • Voiceover: The National Gallery Podcast.

    Miranda Hinkley (in the studio): Hello, I’m Miranda Hinkley and this is the National Gallery Podcast. An audience with a portrait is often an intimate business, an exchange of glances across a crowded room. That’s certainly the case for artist, Humphrey Ocean, a man who’s painted many, an acclaimed portrait in his time. When we asked him to introduce us to his favourite subject in the show, Humphrey chose ‘Christina of Denmark’, a picture made by Holbein to help Henry VIII assess the princess’s suitability as a wife.

    Leah Kharibian began by asking what he saw as an artist when he looked at the work.

    Humphrey Ocean: Well, I think if you’re going to be, if you’re going to fall in love with somebody, and I don’t know how long that takes, some people say it takes 17 seconds, then you’re taking in a staggering amount of information. But, as one does when one looks at somebody, meets somebody, you look first of all at the eyes. And Christina’s eyes are alluring and probably maddening as well. And, in this case, one of the eyes is looking at you, her right eye, and the left eye seems to be wandering slightly as if it’s possibly interested in something else. And she has this in common with the Mona Lisa, which I think is what makes her very fascinating, and actually also the model, Kate Moss, who has a wall eye. I think it’s something that keeps one questioning, is she, isn’t she, is she, isn’t she? So I think I can imagine Henry being immediately engaged by this 16 year old, who, of course, eventually turned him down and that must have been even more maddening.

    Leah Kharibian: And for a portrait that has such a specific job of work to do, I mean Henry’s there, he’s looking for a new bride, he needs to know whether this is a woman he can find attractive but he also knows, he needs to know that she’s got a mind, and somehow Holbein manages to communicate this. We seem to get the poise, the wit of the woman. I mean she was somebody who said, I think, slightly later, that if she had two heads she would gladly put one at the disposal of the King of England. I mean, she was smart.

    Humphrey Ocean: Yes, and she looks it. There’s all sorts of movements in the picture. She appears to be walking off to our left, but she is almost full frontal, certainly in her face and in her torso. But then what Holbein has done, I mean you look at the clarity of the drawing of the hat, which shifts over to the right and the way that her dress, like a bell, is shifting and swinging to our right, her left, and yet, if she was going to walk, she’d be walking in the opposite direction. So there’s an immediate strain and conflict here and all the while she’s holding, in her hands the glove, and the glove is one of the things that shows that she’s probably not a washerwoman – it’s an indication of her rank. And then the fur, that, oh dear, it’s a very alluring looking thing.

    Leah Kharibian: I mean, there is actually quite a strong erotic charge, almost, I mean, these beautiful hands with the gloves that have been taken off for the portrait. I mean we know that Holbein had only three hours with her, he was there, they ’ve got very precise details about it. He went to see her on the 12th March 1538 and he was with her from one o’clock till four o’clock in the afternoon and then he left Brussels, which is where he had to go make this portrait, that self-same evening, and went straight back to London with what we can presume is a drawing for Henry to see from which this portrait was made. But, just in three hours.

    Humphrey Ocean: Well, I, in a funny sort of way, I think there’s a wisdom in that. There’s a kind of impact on the… when one looks at something, you see a thing immediately and it makes an impression, it etches an image on your eye and you don’t want to spend overly long analysing. I mean, he had this way, this economy of line, he was like, I kind of think of him as like Matisse, you know the opposite to Picasso, the Bull. You know, Matisse with his scientist’s coat on when he was sitting three feet away from a nude model, looking at her, drawing.

    And I think Holbein was something similar, although, of course, in the northern tradition. It’s like Cormac McCarthy’s writing, there are no superlatives there; he just hands something to you on a plate and you fill in the rest. Certainly, he would have concentrated probably on the hands and the face, that’s where he would have put the hours in.  He then would have got a dress, he would have taken notes, I would imagine, but he would have either designed a dress or certainly got a dress made up. He was a designer as well and did a lot of work for Henry VIII’s court, you know, he was designing jewellery and shoes and dresses and robes and all that sort of thing. So he had this extraordinary range of knowledge that he could apply later. But those three hours, I would imagine, were, you know, sharped out and went bulls eye into his mind and he carried that home, and then he thinks, how can I do something that will get under Henry’s fingernails? And this is what he came up with.

    Leah Kharibian: [Laughter] Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

    Miranda Hinkley (in the studio): Thanks to Humphrey Ocean. That’s it for this time; more news throughout the month on our website www.nationalgallery.org.uk where you can also download past episodes of the show. Goodbye.

    Artist's insight

    Artist Humphrey Ocean looks at 'Christina of Denmark'

    About the video:

     

    This girl was smart, beautiful, and to Henry VIII she was maddeningly out of reach. Artist Humphrey Ocean explores how this portrait seduces its viewers.

     

    From the National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty Six (December 2008)

     

    Find out more about Hans Holbein the Younger, Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, 1538

    About the video:

     

    This girl was smart, beautiful, and to Henry VIII she was maddeningly out of reach. Artist Humphrey Ocean explores how this portrait seduces its viewers.

     

    From the National Gallery Podcast: Episode Twenty Six (December 2008)

     

    Find out more about Hans Holbein the Younger, Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan, 1538

    Read More
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    Artist's insight

    Artist Humphrey Ocean looks at 'Christina of Denmark'

    Movie
  • Personal response

    National Gallery Podcast: Jon Snow on 'Lake Keitele'

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    Personal response

    National Gallery Podcast: Jon Snow on 'Lake Keitele'

    Movie
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