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Masterpieces of European painting

Simon Schama offers his own passionate and personal response to five of the most significant paintings in the history of Western art

1604-1605

Masterpieces of European painting

The Madonna of Loreto - Caravaggio

This may be Schama's favourite Caravaggio. It’s a breach of every kind of decorum - social and aesthetic.

1642

Masterpieces of European painting

The Night Watch - Rembrandt

Rembrandt uses his whole box of tricks to make this feel like a movie. It’s a perfect miracle of dynamism and discipline together.

1656

Masterpieces of European painting

Las Meninas - Velázquez

A painting that turns convention on its head and, more than any other before or since, stakes the most ambitious claim for the power of art and the artist.

1751

Masterpieces of European painting

Apollo and the Four Continents - Tiepolo

Father and son Giovanni Battista and Gian Domenico Tiepolo reinvent what it means to look at a painting and what a painting is. It’s one of the most stupendous demonstrations of the spectacular power of painting.

1888

Masterpieces of European painting

Starry Night over the Rhône - Van Gogh

Van Gogh may have failed as a preacher but, as a painter, he created a new church of colour and illumination.