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Renaissance Unchained

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How we got art history wrong

In The Renaissance Unchained, Waldemar will argue that the Renaissance was actually an era of huge passions and powerful religious emotions. The dramatic break with the Middle Ages that has usually been envisaged simply did not happen. Beneath all the so-called ‘classical restraint’ imagined by Vasari, the entire period bubbled away with darkness, turbulence, superstition and irrationality. 

It’s time to take the reason out of the Renaissance, and to show the side that Vasari did not want us to see. The series will spend as much time in the North as the South, celebrating material that is new to television. In Flanders and Germany, where it could be argued the Renaissance truly began, extraordinary realism was developed and employed to intensify Christian devotion. 

Throughout the series, Waldemar Januszczak will include art that is not usually thought of as ‘Renaissance art’. This will involve ‘re-classifying’ what is sometimes called Late Gothic, and showing it off as a marvellous and native artistic tradition that has been crazily under-valued, particularly in the remarkable field of polychrome sculpture. 

On top of all the fabulous new art to be introduced, Waldemar Januszczak will also look at many of the established Renaissance giants in iconic locations all over the world, from new and intriguing angles. We all think we know these emblematic works – Michelangelo in the Vatican, Leonardo in the Louvre, Botticelli in the Uffizi, Van Eyck in Ghent – but there’s so much more to say that is too often left out of traditional art historical narratives.

Programme Information

  • Genre: Arts

  • Subgenre: Factual

  • Producers: ZCZ FILMS LIMITED

  • Broadcaster: BBC 4

  • Duration: 4 x 60'

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