“Secrets of the Divine”: Arizona Public Media Premier showing of the new one-hour PBS-HD documentary produced by Sooyeon Lee Johnston on the University of Arizona Museum of Art’s Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo. The show will air on KUAT Channel 6 on November 18, 8 p.m. MST, narrated by narrated by NPR’s Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg. Encore broadcast Sunday, Nov. 21st at 3 p.m.
Veiled for centuries behind a curtain on the altar of a medieval church in Spain, the Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo held a history of secrets. Then, over the next 400 years a series of benefactors…and some luck…helped the artworks survive natural disaster, war, and neglect. The sacred masterpieces were meant simply to record the life of Christ. But investigators looking beneath the surface made unexpected discoveries…including images which were never meant to be seen.
Who created these paintings?
Why were they kept hidden from worshippers?
How did they travel from Ciudad Rodrigo to Tucson, Arizona?
Could this Retablo prophesize the end of the world?
Equal parts historical art, mystery and scientific exploration, Secrets of the Divine: The Altarpiece of Ciudad Rodrigo delves into the exhibition “Fernando Gallego & His Workshop: The Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo” —considered by scholars to be some of the most beautiful and iconographical ambitious paintings of the 15th century— which adorned an altar at a cathedral in west central Spain. For the first time in the United States, researchers uncover what lies beneath 500 years of Spanish altar paintings, revealing surprising insights into the lives of Fernando Gallego and the artists of his time. Notable for their size and number, the panels treat the Christian subjects of Genesis, the life of Christ, and the Last Judgment. A five year project of collaborative research uncovers preliminary under drawings beneath the final layers of the paintings that unlock secrets involving art, literature, history, and religion. This hour long documentary follows the journey of the Retablo (altar pieces) which survived earthquakes, damage by the Napoleonic War, trans-Atlantic voyages, and years of storage in a bunker during WW II. Only 26 panels remain, carefully restored by art historians and researchers looking for the answers.
A retablo is an altarpiece, a “picture or relief representing a religious subject and suspended in a frame behind the altar of a church.”
My husband, UA University Distinguished Professor Albrecht Classen, was interviewed for this show, as he is a scholar of medieval and early modern culture & history.
View a 3 minute preview of this show by clicking here.
If you miss this show, I highly recommend you visit the UA Museum of Art to see this collection of fabulous medieval paintings for yourself. The museum is at 1031 N. Olive Street, south of Speedway, east of Park Avenue. Phone: (520) 621-7567. $5 fee for general public, but free to UA faculty/staff/students and those under 18 years old.
2011 UPDATE: PBS HD will show Secrets of the Divine on Easter Sunday April 24, 6 p.m. MST (9 p.m. EST). Don’t miss it.