The Private Life of a Masterpiece

The Private Life of a Masterpiece Friday 26 October, 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 series The Private Life of a Masterpiece reveals the truth behind seminal works of art, Fridays at 8.30pm on TVNZ 6.

This BBC series illuminates little-known facts and makes surprising revelations about some of the world’s most famous artworks. Did you know that Leonardo’s jealousy of Michelangelo’s David led him to try and get it displayed in the most inconspicuous place possible? And that scrawled by an unknown hand in an upper corner of Munch’s The Scream are the words ‘can only have been painted by a madman’? All will be revealed in The Private Life of A Masterpiece.
This week (Friday 26 October at 8.30pm), the series looks at Don Francisco Goya’s famous painting The Third of May 1808.

In 1814, the King of Spain commissioned Goya, as the chief court painter to the Bourbon royal family, to depict Madrid’s defeat of the Napoleonic troops. But Goya broke with convention at the time, boldly placing the victims of war centre-stage, rather than glorifying the King, the army or the state.

The Private Life of A Masterpiece uncovers the full story of The Third of May 1808. It also looks at artists, whose work has been influenced by the painting, including Picasso, in his painting Guernica. Commentators include BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson, art historian Juliet Wilson Bareau, Nigel Glendinning from the University of London, art critic Jonathan Jones and artists Leon Golub, Peter Howson and Robert Ballagh.

Other works examined in the series include Botticelli’s Primavera; Uccello’s Battle of San Romano; Salvador Dali’s The Christ of St John of the Cross; God’s Child by Gaugin; and Vermeer’s The Art of Painting, amongst many others.

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