Halfway between the exhibition and the cinema, an unprecedented presentation of artistic works takes place at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles in Paris, under the name of JAM Capsule. It is a sort of virtual walk to discover the masterpieces of religious work by the great Flemish masters of the 15th century (Van Eyck, Bosch, Van der Weyden, Memling).
Here we are in an encapsulated space, immersed in silence and darkness. No spectator dares to disturb this contemplation, when suddenly the first notes of the “Small Solemn Massresounds. In perfect harmony with the grandiose music, like brush strokes, bursts of light spring from the half-light, in front, behind, above our heads, under our feet, in very close shots: shy flowers, a bell tower the horizon, ornate armor and fabrics.
Likewise, many pictorial details, fascinating for their extreme finesse, come to life. The camera moves away. Gradually appear bishops in prayer, prostrate martyr virgins, prostrate angels… What is the mysterious object of their adoration? It emerges, in all its splendor, carried by the vibrant song of the Agnus Dei: it is the Mystical Lamb painted by the Van Eyck brothers, which gives all its meaning to the innumerable scenes of the previously illuminated altarpiece.
Impossible to remain indifferent to this representation of the Easter Victim, when one can contemplate so closely, in such a large format, His gentle and penetrating gaze, His majestic bearing, His immaculate body while His blood flows in the chalice of sacrifice. . ! Caught up by these immense sets and invaded by sounds, we become characters in the painting, subjugated like the others by the symbolic Lamb.
Moments later, director Tom Volf invites us to Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. One by one, the panels of the impressive triptych come to life: the happiness of Adam and Eve in the earthly paradise, the sin of men and the demons of hell. Ordinarily, the multitude of characters makes them indistinguishable as they are numerous in this work. A clever zoom work highlights them here. Exacerbated by the choice of music, the contrast between idyllic Eden and dreadful Hell seems all the more striking!
During the fifty minutes that remain in the film, this game of progressive discovery of the scenes is repeated ad infinitum, like an enigma. Like clues, the evocative details are delivered one by one, the scenes reveal themselves little by little, the emotions are suggested by the sound, until, triumphantly, the work appears as a whole. No need for comments or labels: the camera and the music guide us towards understanding the work.
In total, some forty pieces, mostly of religious inspiration, are brought together in this virtual exhibition. Unique, in that the originals, scattered across Europe and difficult to transport, are never shown side by side. Their common point: they are all works produced by the Flemish primitives, these painters from the flourishing cities of the North (Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, etc.) who distinguished themselves in the 15th century by launching a new taste, where the last lights of the Gothic and the beginnings of the Renaissance mingle.
These brilliant artists lend themselves particularly well to the JAM Capsule process insofar as they are driven by a constant attention to detail. Their paintings are full of scenes, symbols and characters, in which each element is worked with a fascinating realism. The camera lingers to reveal so many elements hitherto invisible to the naked eye!
The spectator thus has the opportunity to admire the beautiful execution of the ornaments, the vegetation, the sumptuous decorations, and to enjoy the delicious touches of humor scattered here and there. The ugliness, pimples and unshaven beard of a godfather, Van Eyck’s self-portrait hidden in the reflection of a mirror, demons laughing. But above all, one can let oneself be drawn into an irresistible contemplation of the divine mysteries.
Close-up visuals help us better understand and feel each religious scene by forcing us to consider them from all angles, focusing our attention on details that would otherwise have escaped us. Served by these admirable “compositions of place”, we meditate.
We sing the Magnificat (Monteverdi) with Van Eyck’s Madonna; we cry at the foot of the Cross with the Virgin of the Diptych of the Crucifixion (Van der Weyden), carried by the sorrowful accents of the Stabat Mater (Pergolesi); we tremble at the sound of Dies Iræ (Verdi) in front of The Last Judgment… So much so that having entered the capsule as in a museum, we come out of it as from a church.
JAM Capsule Mystical Gardens
Porte de Versailles Exhibition Center