Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Well Said and Worth a Thousand Words: One of the most terrifying religious paintings in the world

 Imagine a truly wicked person who is also very smart, very talented and very enterprising. Now raise that person to a far higher pitch of ontological perfection, and you will have some idea of what a devil is like. Very rarely, devils intervene in human affairs in vividly frightening and dramatic ways. But typically, devils act more indirectly and clandestinely, through temptation, influence and suggestion. One of the most terrifying religious paintings in the world is in the Cathedral of Orvieto in Italy. It is a depiction of the Antichrist by the great early renaissance painter Luca Signorelli. The artist shows the devil whispering into the ear of the Antichrist, and also working his arm through the vesture of his victim in such a way that it appears to be the Antichrist’s own arm, thereby beautifully symbolizing how the dark power acts precisely with us and through us.
Bishop Robert Barron, Vibrant Paradoxes
I'd never have come across today's art if not for Bishop Barron's essay. Click on the painting to see it enlarged and make sure you can see the two people on the pedestal.

Fresco of the Deeds of the Antichrist (c. 1501) in Orvieto Cathedral.
Luca Signorelli

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