Private Life Of A Masterpiece

Private Life of a Masterpiece
Fridays, 8:30pm

Behind beautiful canvases and sculptures lie events and sagas that have shaped world history – from political revolutions, wartime escapes, and massive ego clashes, to intense financial wrangling. Tracing selected works of art from their genesis to their reception and beyond, the fascinating fifth series of The Private Life of a Masterpiece reveals the truth behind seminal works of art, Fridays at 8.30pm on TVNZ Showcase on TVNZ 6.

The fifth series of Private Life of a Masterpiece reveals the history behind some of the most amazing pieces of art in history.
The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci is perhaps the most lionised, analysed and parodied of all Christ-centred artworks. There is almost as much controversy about how it has been restored as in how it was created. This amazing painting depicts the dramatic moment when Christ tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code has stirred up florid controversy about the iconography of The Last Supper, by suggesting that the figure of St John, immediately to the left of Christ, is actually female and represents Mary Magdalene.

Salvador Dali’s The Christ of St John of The Cross is the first of two extraordinary crucifixions painted by Dali in the early 1950s. Dali claimed that he had a cosmic dream in which he saw the nucleus of the atom as Christ himself. Working from a drawing of the crucified Christ by St John of the Cross, the C16th Spanish mystic, Dali arrived at his extraordinary perspective, unique in art, in which Christ is seen from above, making an inverted triangle. At its unveiling, the painting was criticised by many but received with almost ecstasy by others. It now resides in the Glasgow Art Gallery and is amongst its most popular attractions.

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca is the third seminal artwork examined in The Private Life of a Masterpiece’s fifth series. The Resurrection is one of the great religious pictures, which shows the risen Christ standing upright in his sarcophagus, one foot poised on its rim. He is wearing a pink funeral shroud, and in his right hand he holds a flag with a red cross on a white background, which symbolises his triumph over death.

It has been suggested that the presence of this painting saved the town of Sansapulcro from Allied shells during World War II.

For anyone who loved Simon Schama’s Power of Art, this is unmissable viewing.