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This modello, or detailed oil study, is one of a group of 12 that Giordano made in preparation for the ceiling frescoes in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence in 1682–85. The overall theme of these highly elaborate frescoes is the progress of mankind by means of Wisdom and Virtue.
The three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to Hades (the underworld) while Charon ferries the souls of the dead across the River Styx, helped by Death, who holds a scythe. Behind them is Vulcan, god of fire, while to the left are mythological figures suffering eternal tortures. Night and Sleep are enveloped in a star-studded blue cloak.
Oil on canvas
H 121.6 x W 193 cm
Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013