Descent into LimboArtist(s)Zoan Andrea
; Andrea Mantegna
; ItalianObject Creation Datecirca 1475-1480Medium & Supportengraving on laid paperDimensions
16 in x 12 3/16 in (40.64 cm x 30.96 cm)Credit LineMuseum Purchase made possible by the Friends of the Museum of ArtLabel copy
The subject of this engraving, the Descent into Limbo (also known as the Harrowing of Hell), is one of the scenes in the cycle of the Passion of Christ that was particularly popular in medieval and Renaissance art. According to Christian belief, because the Old Testament saints had lived in an era in which they had not benefited from the Christian sacraments, their souls were confined to Limbo, a region on the border of Hell, until Christ could come to free them. Christ, bearing his standard, is shown standing on the broken gate of Hell reaching into the doorway to rescue the Old Testament forefathers, three of whom stand, nude, cowering at right, tormented by devils. At left, a figure, possibly the Good Thief, stands holding a large cross. Mantegna represented the leaning Christ in a novel and startling pose—from the rear—with the result that the viewer might identify with Christ’s stance and look upon the scene as he did. The print is very likely unfinished, as there are no clouds in the sky and no detail in the landscape.
Gallery label text, collections gallery, by Curator Annette Dixon, February, 2000Primary Object Classification Print Primary Object Typeblack and white printCollection AreaWesternRights
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