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This work depicts the arrival of a naked man in hell, escorted by a winged angel clad in white. The naked man is presumed to be a soul of the dead. The damned already there are receiving horrendous tortures at the hands of monsters. The angel who accompanies the soul of the deceased to the underworld is called the psychopomp. In ancient Greco-Roman religion the psychopomp is Hermes (Mercury), but Christian doctrines are more vague on how the soul actually reaches its post-mortem destination. The event itself in some versions happens immediately after the death of an individual, while in others it happens after Judgment Day. Paintings, poems and songs have contributed as much to the idea of hell as official doctrines. Hell is depicted in mediaeval and early modern churches and cemeteries (as at Pisa) as well as on Buddhist paintings of the realm of Yama.
An Angel Leading a Soul into Hell
oil on wood
H 33.5 x W 45.5 cm
purchased by Henry S. Wellcome, c.1900–1936