Ongoing stories in art history

In the second episode of our interview series, Christie’s invites Botis Seva to explore the power of storytelling through images and motion. The result, Santo, is an intimate expression of faith inspired by ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and religious scenes in medieval books of hours.

PLAY
TRAILER

Botis Seva is a dance artist, choreographer and director working within the discipline of contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip hop. Seva experiments with form and structure to reinvent choreography. Borrowing techniques from different artistic media, Seva uses his life experiences to drive narratives.

In response to Christie’s invitation, Seva creates a visual language that is at once poetic and theatrical, telling a personal story of faith through movements.

Here, Seva sits down with two Christie’s specialists, Chanel Clarke from the Antiquities department, and Eugenio Donadoni from Books and Manuscripts. Together, they delve into the parallels between the tradition of storytelling in art history and his contemporary creative process.

‘The way we communicate
‍‍is gestural’

THE ORATOR’S POSE

This is a powerful, commanding gesture commonly used by figures of great authority and power, whether a god or an emperor addressing his troops. It is a divine symbol.

THE COBHAM HALL HADRIAN
A ROMAN MARBLE STATUE OF THE EMPEROR HADRIAN

Circa 117-138 AD
Sold in The Exceptional Sale on 29 October 2019 at Christie’s in New York

EROS STRINGING HIS BOW

The young god is depicted in the form of an adolescent, stringing or unstringing his bow, in a characteristically dynamic use of space. This posture encourages viewers to appreciate the figure’s youthful physicality in mid-movement, anticipating the moment when Eros’s arrow strikes.

A ROMAN MARBLE EROS UNSTRINGING HIS BOW

Circa 1st century AD
Sold in Antiquities on 4 December 2019 at Christie’s in London

VENUS PUDICA

A standard piece of iconography for women in art, this was once considered a modest pose in which the standing nude goddess is shown covering her body. However, recent scholarship suggests that, in fact, Venus is pointing to her womb and breasts to emphasise her fertility, rather than hiding herself.

THE PROPERTY OF THE COMPTON FAMILY
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT ROMAN MARBLE STATUE OF VENUS, OF MEDICI TYPE

Circa  late-1st/mid-2nd century AD, a Roman copy after a
Hellenistic original of 2nd century BC
Sold in The Jenkins Venus on 13 June 2002 at Christie’s in London

‘A conversation between
image and movement,
movement and image’

‘Looking at the books of hours, it gave me a sense of the stories that took place in a specific image, which allowed me to grow rich in movement in the choreography’

THE PRAYERBOOK OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
Master of François de Rohan (active c.1525-1546)
Use of Fontevraud, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1535-40 (after 1534)]
Sold in the Classic Art Evening Sale: Antiquity to 20th Century on 29 July 2020 at Christie’s in London

‘This tension between the everyday and the sacred is a way of making religion accessible, and your dance is a kind of accessible medium’

THE ‘BOOK OF HOURS OF CHARLES V’
Workshop of Gerard Horenbout.
Use of Rome, in Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Ghent, c.1515]
Sold in Illuminated Manuscripts and Early Printed Books from the Collection of Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg on 23 April 2021 at Christie’s in New York

The ‘Book of Hours of Charles V’ includes entrancing scenes of daily life depicted in the margins, including one of the earliest representations of the game of golf, juxtaposed with iconographic scenes of religious stories in the centre.

‘I imagined mood of the person depicted, their movements. I can take that movement and make it my own’