NYC-ARTS

S2019 E468 | FULL EPISODE

NYC-ARTS Full Episode: November 7, 2019

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, to discover the unique skills involved in creating an outstanding musical instrument.

AIRED: November 08, 2019 | 0:28:16
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TRANSCRIPT

Coming up on NYC-ARTS...

a look at the exhibition "“The

Last Knight: The Art, Armor and

Ambition of Maximilian I, now on

view at the Metropolitan Museum

of Art...

and a visit to the Brooklyn

studio of a modern-day violin

maker.

FUNDING FOR NYC-ARTS IS MADE

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WALTER

THEA PETSCHEK IERVOLINO

FOUNDATION

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FOR DANCE

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

ELISE JAFFE AND JEFFREY BROWN

CHARLES AND VALERIE DIKER

ELROY AND TERRY KRUMHOLZ

FOUNDATION

JEAN DUBINSKY APPLETON ESTATE

THE MILTON AND SALLY AVERY ARTS

FOUNDATION

AND ELLEN AND JAMES S.

MARCUS

ADDITIONAL FUNDING PROVIDED BY

MEMBERS OF THIRTEEN.

NYC-ARTS IS MADE POSSIBLE IN

PART BY FIRST REPUBLIC BANK...

AND BY SWANN AUCTION GALLERIES.

Good evening and welcome to

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 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 armorers 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

Innesbruck, 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 Maximillian the

First?

Thank you Phillipe.

Maximillian the First is one of

the European rulers that is well

known in Europe as a colorful

figure that ruled over many

different parts of Europe,

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 and

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 of 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 may

not dare to do without it.

It is also something you see as

part of a performance.

And the performances are

important to 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, 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

relationship with these

armorers, sometime exclusive

arrangements.

So if you wanted an armor from

those workshop, you had to be in

Maximilian's good graces.

You need to be connected to him.

The armors are among those few

objects from the period they

were valuable because of how

they're 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 armors of the

time.

Now, is this a little bit

like going to the tailor?

Did he actually go to the

armorer, be measured by the

armorer?

How did that work for an

emperor?

In general, the emperor

summoned the armorers to come

measure, 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

counter intuitive for 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, um, in his entourage

were one of the measures of his

greatness.

As diplomatic gifts?

As diplomatic gifts, but

also-

As bribes, as favors?

Favors?

As tokens of appreciation,

as a token of appreciation.

So sometime even his usher or

his personal secretary, got

armors as gifts from him, as

well as heads of state.

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

shaffron 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 completely worked 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

very well known as being a great

jouster.

Tell us a little bit about those

armors and the, 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 will

be a wider range of people, more

socially diverse, gender

diverse, all of whom could

witness his capabilities.

There's a wide audience.

Tribunes 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, noble wedding

and so forth.

And Maximilian uses the

tournament as a way of

amplifying his message, which is

that he has qualities.

His qualities are both physical.

He's fearsome.

He will run against somebody

holding a lance, running the

risk of actually being struck,

uh unhorsed, 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 as

a-

And his courage.

And his courage.

But ultimately because he had,

uh, chronicles done in a

pseudo-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, um, 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, um, especially in the

15th century, when most elements

are completely independent from

another.

And it's very rare indeed to

find those twenty to fifty

elements that were originally

designed to go together, uh, 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, is it somewhat

made up?

It is not made up.

However, there was some soul

searching because it was kept

with other armors of, 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 were connected

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, in 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.

One could almost, in many

instances, speak of these

elements as a species 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 armorers

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 acquire 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 a altarpiece,

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, sometime his own

subjects.

He never fully paid for that

armor, so it stayed with the

armorer.

And in 1519, Charles the Fifth

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 the

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

melted down and the, and the

jewels scattered.

There's an astonishing

picture of 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 by, 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 ask 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've wanted for himself.

Maximilian thought of himself as

the first among many and the

premiere 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, 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 are so grateful

to you for creating the

exhibition, uh, for the

Metropolitan Museum of Art and

thank you for explaining it so

cogently.

Thank you, Philippe.

Thank you so much.

Thank you.

Rafael Pi Roman: On November 8th

The Metropolitan Opera presents

the company premiere of Philip

Glass's modern masterpiece

Akhnaten, with performances

continuing through December 7th.

Countertenor Anthony Roth

Costanzo stars as the enigmatic

pharaoh Akhnaten, who

transformed Egyptian society

with his revolutionary

philosophy.

The production uses texts drawn

from ancient hymns, prayers,

letters, and inscriptions-sung

in their original languages, set

to Glass's distinctive music.

For complete details please

visit metopera.org

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.

Samuel Zygmuntowicz: 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 or softer?

Then I will you know 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 you know it's kind of

like a collection of you know

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 arch, in

many directions, whereas the

ribs 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 a

something that you've just made,

like the same way you'd make a

chest of drawers or build a

house, to being something that

is vibrating in response to a

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: wood choice, model,

arching, thicknesses, weights,

tap tones, varnishes, bass 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, of

the audience.

I've had wonderful opportunities

working with wonderful

musicians.

I got contacted by Isaac Stern

to make a copy of his Guarneri

del gesu.

To actually meet Isaac Stern for

me was like, it's like meeting

the Pope or something.

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's a wonderful

soloist in his 20s and I think

it's a really fitting placement,

and I think Mr. Stern would be

very pleased.

It was a 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.

Thanks for joining us this

evening.

I'm Philippe de Montebello on

location at the Museum of Modern

Art.

Good night, and see you next

time.

Next week on NYC-ARTS...

a look at the world of dance

through the lens of three female

choreographers now taking the

lead in the field....and we

return to the Metropolitan

Museum of Art for a fresh look

at the museum's collection of

postwar and contemporary art.

FUNDING FOR NYC-ARTS IS MADE

POSSIBLE BY

ROSALIND P.

WALTER

THEA PETSCHEK IERVOLINO

FOUNDATION

THE LEWIS "“SONNY"” TURNER FUND

FOR DANCE

JODY AND JOHN ARNHOLD

ELISE JAFFE AND JEFFREY BROWN

CHARLES AND VALERIE DIKER

ELROY AND TERRY KRUMHOLZ

FOUNDATION

JEAN DUBINSKY APPLETON ESTATE

THE MILTON AND SALLY AVERY ARTS

FOUNDATION

AND ELLEN AND JAMES S.

MARCUS

ADDITIONAL FUNDING PROVIDED BY

MEMBERS OF THIRTEEN.

NYC-ARTS IS MADE POSSIBLE IN

PART BY FIRST REPUBLIC BANK...

AND BY SWANN AUCTION GALLERIES.

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