This season at Sotheby’s, a Renaissance man encounters some notable men from the Renaissance. Actor, director, poet and painter James Franco has contributed a short film to our ongoing Artist Response Series – commissioned pieces created in response to a work of art that captivates and inspires. Reacting to the vibrant sculptures in Sotheby's selling exhibition Glazed: The Legacy of the Della Robbia, Franco’s video is a contemporary reinterpretation of the family’s pioneering technique and highlights the enduring power and influence of these Renaissance masters. Franco’s film is on view through 18 November alongside the sculptures in Sotheby’s second-floor galleries and can be seen below. We spoke with Franco about what drew him to these centuries-old works, the relationship between art and film and more.
Why did you choose to make a film about the Della Robbia’s art?
I liked the idea of creating a piece that could exist as a moving image in many different forms, but in this particular exhibition space would exist as its own modern sculpture, a screen, with images of live-action sculptures playing with a filmmaking element of the passage of time, slow motion.
What about these sculptures inspires you?
The high-shine gloss that still exists in the glaze and the vibrant colours, mostly.
Was there a particular work in the selling exhibition that stood out to you? Why?
The three works replicated in the video were chosen because they lent themselves well to reproducing in a video—elaborate, textural and bright costumes and props, bold stances and intriguing but recognizable characters.
How do you want people who view your film to understand the Della Robbia’s work and their legacy?
The show at Sotheby’s, aptly named Glazed, and my film highlight one of the most important things about the Della Robbia’s work – the glazing method the family developed. Without it, the work would not be nearly as well preserved as it is and we would not be able to appreciate the charming and beautiful sculptures.
What are your thoughts on the connection between art and film?
Art inspires and informs film and film inspires and informs art. They are two methods of expression, grounded in, but not isolated to purely visual manifestation. They are perpetually linked.