Mary Beard returns with her second episode in the series, looking at the controversial subject of religion in art.
Here she looks at Buddhist art from 200BC and how it was preserved by a western explorer; the varying ways that Italian artists have tried to convey the message of Christianity; as well as modernist mosques and beautiful calligraphy in Istanbul expressing Islam.
Beard also deals with the big questions concerning art and religion such as at what point does adoring a certain religious artwork turn into idolatry, and is it right to spend so much money on religious art, when that money could be used to help the poor. There is also the issue of iconoclasm, and can the destruction of art itself produce art.
This episode to me felt better than Beard’s previous episode concerning how art reflects people. It seemed much more diverse and less centred on Beard’s normal classicist subjects, although she does end the show by talking about the Parthenon and when talking about Italian art she comments on how in the 6th century AD artists reused Roman techniques such as mosaics, both of which were still interesting.
The section of the episode that really stood out for me was when she talked about Islamic art, from the Sancaklar Mosque with its breathtaking modernist design, to the golden and wonderful written calligraphy of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, both buildings stand out in different ways to display wonderful a culture much different to most of us.
Civilisations is on Thursday at 21.00 and the entire series is currently on iPlayer.