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The Descent of Christ into Limbo

Photo credit: Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives

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The Bible has only brief references to Christ's descent into Limbo, which took place after his crucifixion and before the resurrection. The story is told in full in the 'Golden Legend' compiled in the thirteenth century. Christ is seen here trampling underfoot the massive gates to Limbo, on the fringes of hell. Demons, the discomfited forces of Satan, blow discordant trumpets. Giovanni Bellini first worked in Venice with his father Jacopo Bellini and his brother Gentile Bellini. He was also greatly influenced by his brother-in-law, the Paduan artist Andrea Mantegna. There is a complex relationship that has yet to be understood between this painting and a painting by Mantegna of the same subject and various similar drawings and engravings. In due course these may help to explain the evolution of this painting which, most unusually, is painted over an ink drawing on vellum laid onto a wooden panel.

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery





oil on vellum on panel


H 51.8 x W 37.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

bequeathed by F. P. M. Schiller, 1946

Work type



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Normally on display at

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Queens Road, Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RL England

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