SIGNORELLI, Luca
(b. ca. 1450, Cortona, d. 1523, Cortona)

The Elect Being Called to Paradise and The Damned Being Plunged into Hell

1499-1502
Fresco
Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto

The picture shows the frescoes on the altar wall of the chapel: The Elect Being Called to Paradise (left) and The Damned Being Plunged into Hell (right). In the window embrasures are angels and Sts Brizio and Constantius, while in the tondi of the side window embrasures, the archangel Michael and a demon (left) and the archangel Raphael with Tobias (right).

There is no doubt that Luca's portrayal of the Elect is far less convincing than his fresco of the Damned. Despite his extremely accurate studies of the human body, his depiction of Paradise is no more than a conventional catalogue of good sentiments and the overall effect is one of unmitigated dullness. The same is true of the pair of frescoes depicting the Elect being called to Paradise and the Damned being plunged into Hell.

Although each covers a half wall interrupted by an arch, the scene of the blessed being summoned to heaven is unimaginative and common-place, with its pretty musician angels and chocolate-box portrayals of the Elect. Whereas the scene of the Damned is constructed around the visionary, almost surrealistic, idea of these crowds of naked figures jostling for space along the banks of the Acheron, and the splendid group in the foreground of the devil whipping a terrified, screaming sinner (reminiscent of a Pollaiolo figure). Michelangelo was clearly fascinated by this powerful scene of cruelty and did a drawing of it.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.