Civilisations - The Triumph of Art

Confirmed for BBC Two on 29 March at 9pm to 10pm

Ep 5/9

Thursday 29 March



Think Renaissance and you think Italy. But in the 15th and 16th centuries the great Islamic empires experienced their own extraordinary cultural flowering.

The two phenomena did not unfold in separate artistic universes; they were acutely conscious of, and in competition with, each other and mutually open to influences flowing both ways.

The fifth film in Civilisations goes east and west with Simon Schama: to Papal Rome but also to Ottoman Istanbul and Mughal Lahore and Agra, revealing those connections and rivalries, and examining how the role of artists from the different traditions of West and East developed in the years that followed the Renaissances.

That rivalry unfolds most spectacularly over the creation of domes - in Ottoman Istanbul the great engineer-architect Mimar Sinan builds the light-flooded Süleymaniye mosque, while at the same time in Rome Michelangelo designs the great dome over the St Peter’s Basilica.

The fate of the hero-artist, seemingly touched by God, with the gift of making visual miracles, diverged in east and west. In Europe, artists such as Benvenuto Cellini with his sculpture of Perseus with the Head of Medusa could lay claim to sovereignty over the world of art. As the century turned, the greatest European artists like Caravaggio, Velasquez and Rembrandt shook off decorum and turned muscular, earthy, and theatrical. Meanwhile in the East, Mughal art, in mausoleums like the I’tima¯d-ud-Daulah became ever more refined, poetic and exquisite.

The Triumph of Art is written and presented by Simon Schama, who is also Project Consultant. Executive Producers for the BBC are Mark Bell and Jonty Claypole. Executive Producers for Nutopia are Michael Jackson and Denys Blakeway. Series Producers for Nutopia are Melanie Fall and Ian MacMillan, the Producer/Director is Ashley Gething.