NYC-ARTS

S2020 E497 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: June 18, 2020

A selection of NYC-ARTS Greatest Hits: Philippe de Montebello in conversation with Pierre Terjanian, the curator of the exhibition “The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I"; followed by a visit to the Brooklyn studio of Samuel Zygmuntowicz, a modern violin-maker.

AIRED: June 18, 2020 | 0:27:46
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

>> Coming up on "NYC-Arts,"

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

>> Armor is worn in combat,

but it's also the formal dress

of the powerful men

that are not part of the clergy

at the time.

It's an object that projects

an image of perfection,

like St. George is always

represented in armor.

There's something almost holy

about the armor.

♪♪

♪♪

>> Every violin I make,

I keep really exhaustive records

on every aspect about it

that I can.

If an instrument of mine comes

back -- and I really like it;

I want to make another one

like that -- I have some record

of what I did.

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported

in part by public funds

from the New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided by

members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible in

part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Good evening,

and welcome to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Paula Zahn, at the Tisch

WNET Studios at Lincoln Center.

It's been my pleasure,

along with my colleague,

Philippe de Montebello,

to bring you the very best

of arts and culture

in the tri-state area.

Whether it's music, dance,

film, theater, the visual arts,

classic or contemporary,

well-known or newly discovered,

"NYC-Arts" have provided

unique access to the people

and places that represent the

richness of our arts community.

In this program,

we'd like to share with you

some of our favorite segments.

We hope they are some of your

favorites, as well.

♪♪

>> Good evening,

and welcome to "NYC-Arts."

I'm Philippe de Montebello,

on location at the

Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now on view is the exhibition

"The Last Knight:

The Art, Armor, and Ambition

of Maximilian I."

It is the first major exhibition

to focus on the central role

that armor played in the life

and very grand ambitions

of the Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian I.

A walk through the galleries

reveals how he used armor

to serve his personal

and dynastic aspirations during

the dawn of the Renaissance.

The most comprehensive loan

exhibition of European arms

and armor in decades,

it brings together more than

180 objects.

These have been selected

from 30 public

and private collections

in Europe, the Middle East,

and the United States.

The armors on view are quite

sumptuous and highlight

his patronage of the greatest

European armors of his age.

A self-promoter

of the highest order,

a ruthless leader,

and political mastermind,

he used art and armor

to forge a heroic image

and eternal legacy.

The outstanding armors are shown

together with drawings,

prints, paintings, sculpture,

stained glass, and a tapestry.

Also included is the complete

series of 18 sandstone reliefs

that Maximilian commissioned

to decorate the façade of

the celebrated Goldenes Dachl,

his official residence

in Innsbruck, known for its

distinctive golden-tiled roof.

I had the opportunity of

speaking with Pierre Terjanian,

the curator of this

truly remarkable exhibition.

♪♪

♪♪

Pierre, it's so nice of you

to welcome us in this absolutely

extraordinary exhibition.

I mean, astonishingly

beautiful and,

at the same time,

revealing of a whole world

that is really not

familiar today to most people.

So, let's set the stage.

Who exactly is Maximilian I?

>> Thank you, Philippe.

Maximilian I is one

of the European rulers

that is well-known in Europe

as a colorful

figure that ruled over

many different parts of Europe.

He started his career in today's

Netherlands and, later,

became Holy Roman Emperor

and, as such, was in charge of

composite assemblage of states,

mostly German-speaking,

but not exclusively.

Resided in Austria.

He was at the hinge of the late

Middle Ages and the beginning

of the Renaissance,

a man who lived in a period

of transition that saw

massive changes politically

but also scientifically

and artistically.

>> What exactly did armor,

great armor, mean at that time,

in the late 15th,

early 16th century?

>> So, armor is a protective

garment made

typically of steel or iron.

It's worn in combat,

but it's also the formal dress

of the powerful men

that are not part of the clergy

at the time.

It's also an object that

projects an image of perfection,

like St. George

is always represented in armor

and the Archangel Michael.

There's something almost holy

about the armor.

Wearing armor allows oneself

to accomplish things

that one might not dare to do

without it.

It is also something you see

as part of a performance,

and the performances

are important for Maximilian

because he needs to demonstrate

that he has leadership qualities

that will mobilize people

around him, around his cause.

>> I presume, if you were

Maximilian, you hired,

you commissioned absolutely

the greatest armorers in Europe.

Where were they,

and for whom did they work?

>> Armor could only be had

from very specific workshops,

and Maximilian arranged

special relationships

with these armorers, sometimes

exclusive arrangements.

So, if you wanted an armor

from those workshops,

you had to be

in Maximilian's good graces.

You need to be connected to him.

The armors are among the few

objects from the period

that are valuable

because of how they are made,

rather than because

their intrinsic value.

They're made of iron, nothing so

valuable in the first place.

But the quality of the

workmanship is everything.

And, not unlike haute couture,

armor has a sense of style

and endows a person wearing it

with a presence.

So, Maximilian was eclectic.

He had armor made

wherever he fancied,

and he happened to have access

to the best armorers of the

time.

>> Now, is this a little bit

like going to the tailor?

Did he actually go the armorer,

be measured by the armorer?

How did that work

for an emperor?

>> In general, the emperor

summoned the armorers

to come measure him at home.

But he liked visiting with them.

He also liked telling them how

the armor should be designed.

He had strong opinions

on the matter.

And maybe that's a bit

counterintuitive for a head of

state to be interested in such

things.

But he thought that his ability

to have wonderful armors

for himself, to appear in them,

but also to give them

to the people who were

in his entourage were one of the

measures of his greatness.

>> As diplomatic gifts?

>> As diplomatic gifts,

but also --

>> As bribes? As favors?

>> As tokens of appreciation,

as token of appreciation.

So, sometimes, even his usher

or his personal secretary

got armors as gifts from him,

as well as heads of states.

Henry VIII

was one of the recipients.

>> This is an opportunity

to speak about the horse

that's right next to us.

Is it frequent that the horses

themselves had armor,

the chamfron for the head

and all over, or was that

an imperial privilege?

>> It's a matter of resources.

So, let's say that the ones who

can afford it would typically

have armor for their horses.

The inexpensive kind was

boiled-leather armor.

But a solid-metal horse armor

was very expensive, very rare.

Typically, they were

smooth and simple.

This one is a complete work

in relief.

That is a statement,

a powerful statement.

And in its original state,

this horse armor was actually

completely covered in silver

and in gold.

>> I gather Maximilian was

well-known as being a great

jouster.

Tell us a little bit about those

armors and the meaning,

conceivably symbolic meaning,

of having these exhibitions,

these jousts?

>> So, Maximilian had to prove

himself to gain

the support that he needed

from the grandees of his lands,

the dukes, the counts.

That was his true audience.

And, to do so,

he could do so in battle,

but people tend to be distracted

in combat, and the tournament

provided a different arena,

where there would be

a wider range of people,

more socially diverse,

gender diverse, all of whom

could witness his capabilities.

There's a wide audience.

Tribunes are erected.

Houses are being rented

so that people could watch

the tournament.

The tournament is part

of the celebration

of anything important --

religious holidays,

civic feasts, inauguration

of somebody's reign,

a noble wedding, and so forth.

And Maximilian uses

the tournament as a way

of amplifying his message,

which is that he has qualities.

These qualities are both

physical.

He's fearsome.

He will run against somebody

holding a lance,

running the risk of actually

being struck on horse,

possibly wounded.

He was actually wounded

in a tournament

many times during his life.

This is a demonstration

of his dexterity

as a horseman --

>> And his courage.

>> And his courage.

But, ultimately, because he had

chronicles done in a

sort of autobiographical way,

telling stories of him

fighting against others

in the tournament,

he has himself depicted

as a loser, also.

I think that's very important

because then it shows

a moral character,

the ability to be resilient

in the face of adversity,

the idea that he has

the endurance

that is required for somebody

who will be facing challenges.

It's not just about

being supreme.

It's also about being combative.

>> One suspects that armors,

over time, were split apart.

Parts of it were sold.

How rare is it to have,

actually, a full armor?

>> Those things are among

the rarest,

especially in the 15th century,

when most elements

are completely independent

from another,

and it's very rare indeed

to find those 20 to 50 elements

that were originally designed

to go together

as something coherent,

to have remained

together after centuries.

>> And that's the case

for the one

that is in the show here?

>> It is.

>> Or is it somewhat made up?

>> It is not made up.

However, there was some

soul-searching because it was

kept with other armors with

similar features in the same

place, and over the centuries

those elements got mixed up.

So, our colleagues in the

Kunsthistorisches Museum in the

1950s did some test fittings,

trying to see which pieces

really stylistically

and morphologically

would connect the best.

The helmet of that armor,

however,

had been separated from the body

since the 18th century,

and this is one of

the very rare opportunities

to see what the overall armor

would have looked like

with the original helmet,

which is now in a private

collection, reunited.

That armor was made

within months after Maximilian,

for the first time,

was tried by combat.

He fought the French at

Guinegate in 1479.

He was, at the time,

20 years old.

This was his first victory

and, therefore, he commissions

this extraordinary armor

from Germany,

and it is the one in which

he rides into his lands,

visits his subjects.

It was something that was unlike

anything that had been seen

in the low countries before

because, stylistically,

it was deeply German,

and in sophistication

and articulation

and from a point of view

of style, it was

an absolutely superlative armor.

Maximilian even struggled

to pay for it.

>> It's really a spectacular

piece, as are so many objects

in this exhibition,

what would almost,

in many instances,

speak of these elements

as pieces of sculpture.

>> So, that's the very first

reason that I became

interested in arms and armor,

and in armor in particular.

It's this ability to transform

the body of the wearer.

It's the fact that

the best armorers of their day

were capable of endowing

something that weighed 60 pounds

or more with grace,

with elegance.

They were fashion elements

that dictated what the overall

architecture might look like.

But then, the way you can

protect the head,

there are many different ways,

and the armors always were drawn

for the princely patrons,

to create something

that was aesthetically pleasing

and captivating,

and we're trying here to show

the diverse options

that were available to somebody

who had the means to require the

finest armor during the period.

>> And there is one very famous

armor that has disappeared,

and it is only known through

one representation,

which is an extraordinary

painting by Cranach

in the exhibition.

>> This is the

devotional picture.

It's elements of an altar piece,

one of the wings.

It represents the Roman

legionnaire, St. Maurice,

who was a legionnaire

based in Africa.

And the armor, however,

is a portrait of an object

that really existed.

It's an armor made of solid

silver.

It was decorated with gems

and pearls, also with gilding.

>> And it was Maximilian's?

>> It was Maximilian's.

Maximilian, however,

chronically ran out of money

fighting the Venetians,

the Turks,

the French, and others,

sometimes his own subjects.

He never fully paid

for that armor,

so it stayed with the armorer,

and in 1519

Charles V redeemed it,

apparently wore it

for his coronation

as king of the Romans,

and then gave it as a gift

to a cardinal,

and that cardinal turned it into

reliquary, as a container

for bones of St. Maurice,

and it was displayed

in a church.

Lucas Cranach had the mission

to create images of the saint,

based on the armor that was

associated with it,

and the cardinal ran into

financial difficulties

and, within 20 years,

the armor was melting down,

and the jewels scattered.

>> There's an astonishing

picture

at the end of the exhibition,

which is the portrait

of Maximilian in death.

What is the significance

of this?

>> This is the first

representation, as far as I know

in Western art,

of a sovereign as a dead mortal,

as a dead person.

It must have been commissioned

by Maximilian,

who had a lot of original ideas.

It's showing him

as a humble mortal.

We know from his last will

and testament that he asked for

his body to be beaten with rods,

and for his teeth

to be knocked out.

The idea was that he was

a sinner and that,

by showing humility

in how his body had to be

treated after his death,

he was showing his contrition,

his penance, his willingness

to acknowledge his sins,

and asked to be forgiven.

>> Why is the show

called "The Last Knight"?

Why is Maximilian

called "The Last Knight"?

>> So, it's certainly not a name

he would have wanted

for himself.

Maximilian thought of himself

as the first among many,

and the premier of many kinds.

He certainly wanted to be

a knight,

and "The Last Knight" is a term

that came from the 19th century

for romantic writing,

where Maximilian was viewed

as a romantic figure.

Virtually all of Maximilian's

descendants had the more

bureaucratic approach to power

and to the rule,

and so in that sense, Maximilian

was viewed by his own kin

as the last of a kind,

as somebody who had secured

for them influence and prestige,

very much through his martial

deeds and his martial image.

>> This is an exhibition

full of great art and sculpture

in the form of armor,

of history, of pageantry.

It really has everything

for everyone,

and we're so grateful to you

for creating the exhibition for

the Metropolitan Museum of Art,

and thank you for explaining it

so cogently.

>> Thank you, Philippe.

>> Thank you so much.

>> Thank you.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Next, "NYC-Arts" visits

the Brooklyn studio

of a modern violin maker

to discover the unique skills

and delicate process involved in

creating an outstanding violin.

Regarded as one of the greatest

contemporary makers,

Samuel Zygmuntowicz discovered

his craft as a teenager

and went on to study

at the Violin Making School

of America in Salt Lake City.

Ever since then,

he has spent his career

creating violins for some of the

world's most talented musicians.

♪♪

♪♪

>> I was interested in sculpture

and art from

as little as I can remember.

I was always doing sculpture.

I think I was good at it,

and everyone assumed that I'd be

a professional artist.

When I was 13, I read a book

about a violin maker,

and I kind of got interested

in instrument making.

It uses all the attributes

of art, but it's for a practical

purpose, and it has

a really clear metric.

It either performs well

as a violin for the musician,

or it doesn't.

It's dependent on knowledge

and skill.

If someone comes to me to have

a violin made, there is,

kind of, a process where I want

to understand, first of all,

why did they come to me?

Presumably, they've heard

instruments of mine.

I want to see their violin.

I have to understand

what they want.

Are they a soloist,

or are they a very aggressive,

strong player?

Are they someone who is

a more subtle player, softer?

Then I will go back to my shop,

and then it's up to me

to decide

what I will make for them

that will serve their needs.

All around me here,

there's my wood stock,

or some of my wood stock,

and it's kind of like a

collection of wine or something.

It comes from all over Europe,

and I've been buying wood

from the beginning in my career.

It has to sit for a long time,

but then I can go through that,

and I pick wood based

not just visually

but on its density,

its stiffness, how I think

it will behave in this model.

First, I have to make

what's called the rib structure,

which is the sides,

and those are bent out of very

thin wood around a form,

which I've designed.

From the ribs, from the sides

I've made, I will then create

the outline of the instrument.

Saw out the top and the back.

While the ribs are bent,

the top and the back,

even though they have an arch,

that's carved in because it's

a compound arching in the

direction, whereas

the woods are just bent.

The arching is critical to

the tone color.

Probably the most important part

of the violin is the front,

the top.

That's the part that vibrates

the most,

and that's made out of spruce,

which is, of the European woods,

it's the wood that is strongest

per unit of weight.

What's challenging is,

while I'm making it,

I'm relating to it in a visual

and a tactile way, but

when it's working as a violin,

it's going to be vibrating

in a way that, you know,

is not visible to the eye

but that is very real.

It's like a long chess game.

I won't know if I've made

the right calls until

the instrument's been strung up

and been played for a while.

It crosses a line from being

something that you've just made,

like the sound when you'd make

a chest of drawers

or build a house,

to being something that is

vibrating in response

to human interaction.

♪♪

It's not alive, exactly,

but it's like it's alive.

♪♪

♪♪

Every violin I make,

I keep really exhaustive records

on every aspect about it

that I can.

You know, wood choice, model,

arching, thicknesses, weights,

tap tones,

varnishes, space-bar dimensions.

If an instrument of mine comes

back -- and I really like it;

I want to make another one like

that -- I have some record of

what I did.

On the other hand, if someone

comes in and it's, like,

"Well, you know, it's just not

as open as it should be,"

or "It's not as focused,"

I can look at my notes, and I

can see well, I may have been a

little conservative on that one.

I might have a little room

to take a little wood out,

or that one might be a little

too flexible.

Maybe I should

put in a little reinforcement.

You never really understand

something until you have to

explain it to somebody else.

So, it puts me on the spot

all the time when I teach.

Most of the great shops,

historically, including

Stradivari, were studios.

They weren't a single,

lone artist.

People working collaboratively

will, ultimately,

work at a higher level

of development

than a single craftsperson

or a single artist.

You could say, on the one hand,

I'm training my competition.

On the other hand,

I feel that it's a tribute

to the system that I practice.

I'm not a magician.

I build things based on

with a method

and based on skill,

and if I can convey that,

then it's sort of

you could say proof of concept.

Art never exists in a vacuum.

What are the sources

of knowledge that go into it?

What are the quality of the

people that enter the field?

And then it's pulled forward

by the demands of the clientele

or the audience.

I've had wonderful opportunities

working with great musicians.

I got contacted by Isaac Stern

to make a copy of his

Guarneri del Gesu.

To actually meet Isaac Stern,

for me, it was, like,

I don't know,

meeting the pope or something,

and he's legendary.

When the instrument

was finally done,

I brought it to Mr. Stern,

who was incredibly gracious.

When Mr. Stern passed away,

the two instruments

that I'd made for him

were part of his estate,

and they were auctioned off.

That violin was recently sold

to Chad Hoopes,

who is a wonderful soloist

in his 20s,

and I think it's a really

fitting place for it,

and I think Mr. Stern would be

very pleased.

♪♪

It was an odd feeling

to see that my work

has now left my purview.

It has now entered the world

where it lives its own life,

and it has its own history,

and I feel like

I've seen my own work go from,

you know, a decent alternative

for a musician

to being something

that is sought after

and that has a place

in the history of violin making.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> I'm Paula Zahn

at the Tisch WNET

Studios at Lincoln Center.

Thanks so much for joining us.

Good night.

To enjoy more of your

favorite segments on "NYC-Arts,"

visit our website

at NYC-Arts.org.

♪♪

Leonard, what a privilege

to be able to sit down

and talk with you.

>> I love being here

with you, too, Paula.

>> Where are we?

>> We're at a moment

to take nothing for granted.

>> Well, it's a pleasure to be

with Marci Reaven,

the curator of this exhibition

full of hope.

We are in the midst of some

of the greatest sculptures

by the iconic names.

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

>> Funding for "NYC-Arts"

is made possible by...

This program is supported in

part by public funds from the

New York City

Department of Cultural Affairs,

in partnership with the

City Council.

Additional funding provided

by members of Thirteen.

"NYC-Arts" is made possible

in part by First Republic Bank.

>> First Republic Bank presents

"First Things First."

At First Republic Bank,

"first" refers to our

first priority, the clients

who walk through our doors.

The first step?

Recognize that every client is

an individual with unique needs.

First decree?

Be a bank whose currency

is service in the form

of personal banking.

This was First Republic's

mission from our very first day.

It's still the first thing

on our minds.

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