Halfway between an exhibition and the cinema, an unprecedented presentation of artistic works is taking place at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles in Paris, under the name of JAM Capsule. It is a virtual walk of sorts to discover the masterpieces of religious works 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 Rossini's “Petite Messe Solennelle” resounds. In perfect harmony with the grandiose music, like brushstrokes, 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 on the horizon, ornate armour, and ornate fabrics.
Similarly, many pictorial details, fascinating in their extreme finesse, come to life. The camera moves away. Gradually appear bishops in prayer, martyred virgins bowed down, 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 countless scenes of the previously illuminated altarpiece.
It is impossible to remain indifferent to this representation of the Pascal Victim, when one can contemplate so closely, in such a large format, His gentle and penetrating gaze, His majestic bearing, His immaculate body as His blood flows into the chalice of the 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.
A few 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 impossible to discern, so teeming are they in this work. 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 remaining in the film, this game of a progressive discovery of the paintings is repeated ad infinitum, like an enigma. Like clues, the evocative details are delivered one by one, the scenes are revealed little by little, the emotions are suggested by the sound, until, triumphal solution, the work appears as a whole. No need for comments or labels: the camera and the music guide us to an understanding of the work.
In all, some 40 pieces, mostly of religious inspiration, are brought together in this virtual exhibition. Unique, insofar as 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, those 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 are blended.
These brilliant artists lend themselves particularly well to the JAM Capsule process insofar as they are animated by a constant attention to detail. Their paintings are full of scenes, symbols, and characters, in which each component is worked with a fascinating realism. The camera lingers to reveal so many elements heretofore invisible to the naked eye!
The spectator thus has the opportunity to admire the fine execution of the ornaments, the vegetation, the sumptuous decorations, and to be amused by the delicious touches of humor scattered here and there. The ugliness, the pimples, and the unshaven beard of a sponsor, the self-portrait of Van Eyck hidden in the reflection of a mirror, the demons in the act of ridicule. But above, one can allow oneself to be drawn into an irresistible contemplation of the divine mysteries.
The close-up visuals help us to better understand and feel each religious scene by forcing us to consider them from every perspective, focusing our attention on details that would have escaped us. Served by these admirable “compositions of place,” we meditate.
We sing the Magnificat (Monteverdi) with Van Eyck's Madonna; we weep 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 to the sound of the Dies Iræ (Verdi) in front of The Last Judgment... So much so that having entered the capsule as if in a museum, we come out of it as if from a church.
JAM Capsule Jardins mystiques
Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles
Internet site: https://jamcapsuleexperience.com/paris/jardins-mystiques/