Tuesday, June 19, 2012
"Heaven, Hell & Dying Well"
At the core of visual devotion stood images of the crucified Christ, promising resurrection and eternal salvation. This exhibition—which includes not only manuscripts but also printed books, a panel painting, stained glass and other media—explores medieval images that reflect imagined travels to the netherworld and attempts to map what awaited humankind beyond this earthly existence.
The morbid imagery found in late medieval prayer books sheds light on the intense preoccupation with matters of death. Lavish depictions of deathbed scenes, funeral rites, and the uncertain fate of departed souls focused attention on the viewer's own mortality and the transience of material wealth. Prayer cycles recorded in such manuscripts include the Office of the Dead, recited to ensure repose for the deceased and shorten their time in purgatory. The intimate scale of prayer books was appropriate, encouraging devout Christians to prepare themselves inwardly and contemplate death in solitude.