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Lisa Jardine's book Ingenious Pursuits: Building the Scientific Revolution, is published by Little, Brown. Tom Lubbock is art critic for The Independent. Tim Marlow is the editor of tate: the art magazine. His TV series, High 5, featuring the nation's favourite paintings, is on Channel 5 on Sundays. Julia Peyton-Jones is director of the Serpentine Gallery. The Serpentine's current show "Yayoi Kusama" runs to 19 March. Martin Maloney is an artist and writer. His exhibition of new work is at the Anthony d'Offay gallery to 11 March. Charles Darwent is Art Critic for The Independent on Sunday. Matthew Collings is a writer and broadcaster. His book, This is Modern Art, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.


CRUCIFIXION, 1260-70 Cimabue (c1240-1302)

Dante referred to Cimabue in The Divine Comedy as an artist who "thought he held the field in painting", but who was soon eclipsed by his pupil Giotto. On the cusp of Byzantine and Renaissance art, Cimabue painted with "increasing naturalism" says Julia Peyton- Jones, as can be seen in this early Crucifix. Sadly, it was greatly damaged in the 1966 Florence flood.

Where: Santa Croce, Florence (00 390 55 244 619).

Admission: free.


THE CALLING OF ST MATTHEW 1599-1600 Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Caravaggio died before he reached 40, but was the most important Italian painter of his generation. His mastery of dramatic effect strikes home in this painting. "If any painting goes `Wham!', it is not Lichtenstein's, but this," says Tom Lubbock. "Jesus holds up his arm in a Svengali gesture, and the shaft of light comes in like a knock-out blow, and scatters among the tunics."

Where: Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome; open 9am-1pm & 4- 7pm.

Admission: free.


THE MUSIC PARTY (LES CHARMES DE LA VIE), C1716 Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721)

After the drama of Caravaggio and his followers, Watteau's frothy canvases seem like a breath of magical fresh air. He is one of the key figures in Rococo art, and - following Rubens' lead - became an expert painter of the "fete galante". Tom Lubbock admires this painting's "angelic" party spirit. "It's a social scene of exquisite sensitivity, with every gesture judged to the finest, most precarious nuance."

Where: Wallace Collection, London W1 (020-7935 0687; www.wallace- Admission: free.


LE DEJEUNER SUR L'HERBE, 1863 Edouard Manet (1832-83)

Julia Peyton-Jones says that Manet "still challenges and provokes today", something he has done since this painting shocked the Salon des Refuses audience when it was exhibited in Paris in 1863. It was based on Giorgione's Fete Champetre, but, translated into modern dress, it continued Courbet's realism, and raised moral questions about what the two men and women were doing.

Where: Musee d'Orsay, Paris (00 33 1 45 49 11 11; www.musee- Admission: FF35.


THREE DANCERS, 1925 Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

"I think this painting is extremely underrated," declares Tim Marlow. Painted in 1925, it reflects the surreal climate in Paris. "It started off as an image of balletic grace," says Tim, but it came to represent a deadly love triangle of Picasso's friends. "The dance of life was turned into a dance of death, the central figure in a crucifix pose, the rejected lover."

Where: Tate Gallery, London SW1 (020-7887 8000;, until 12 May, when it transfers to the Tate Modern. Admission: free.


THE FLAGELLATION, C1460 Piero della Francesca (c1410/20-92)

Della Francesca's work is subtle, intellectual and mathematical; for Tim Marlow, he is "one of the best-kept secrets" of the Renaissance. Lisa Jardine loves the technical aspect of this painting, "the perspective and the architecture". But for her, it is the unknown element that makes it: "There are all sorts of stories about why the three figures in the foreground are there, but it remains an enigma. …