- No tailgating allowed at Super Bowl XLVIII
- Pentagon to transport African troops to Central African Republic
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend’s shopping jumps to his death
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
- Pope Francis: A nun saved my life
- Israeli P.M. Netanyahu backs out of Mandela funeral
- Elian Gonzalez makes first trip outside Cuba since custody battle
- U.S., British intelligence agents enter online sci-fi world to spy on gamers
- Sarah Palin to host the outdoors show ‘Amazing America’
- CIA admits $3 billion intelligence operation was a flop
LA’s Getty Museum illustrates death in Middle Ages
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Death and taxes may both be inevitable in this modern-day world of ours, yet it seems only death has had the ability to inspire great art in people since at least Medieval times.
So much so that life’s final curtain call, as seen through the brushes and pens of artists of the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, is the subject of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s latest exhibition, “Heaven, Hell and Dying Well: Images of Death in the Middle Ages.”
With paintings, drawings, parchment illustrations and works on stained glass, each of them intricately detailed and most of them stunningly colorful, the exhibition takes visitors on a tour of the final days of existence and straight into the afterlife.
It opened last week in a dimly lit gallery that, while the space was darkened mainly to protect the priceless and fragile parchment works, also manages to evoke through its muted lighting a quiet, contemplative space for reflecting on the end of life’s existence.
It will remain there through Aug. 12, in the sprawling museum nestled in the hills above Los Angeles.
The exhibition’s creation was the brainchild of guest curator Martin Schwarz, who although just 26 is fascinated both by death and how its representation in films, books and other modern media appears so strongly influenced by the European artists of 500 to 700 years ago.
It was during the Middle Ages that those artists, perhaps influenced by the relatively short life spans of a period marked by disease, wars and terrifyingly high child mortality rates, really began to envision what it was like to confront death at almost any moment, says Schwarz.
What’s more, their work, often used to illustrate Biblical and other stories that had been handed down through the centuries, began to take on a look that continues to this day in the way devils, vampires, angels and other such creatures are portrayed.
“If you think about the imagination of Heaven and Hell in movies and popular culture and books and so forth, very much these ideas go back to the Middle Ages,” Schwarz said recently by phone from Chicago, where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in art history at the University of Chicago. “Everybody who thinks about Hell today knows about demons, and when we see them we identify them very easily because we know what they look like from these artists.”
In the 15th century book “The Visions of the Knight Tondal,” for example, French artist Simon Marmion painted Hell pretty much as it is represented today: as a big, red, blast-furnace-like place filled with familiar demons and tortured souls.
Among those souls, in both Marmion’s and other artists’ works, are a fair share of priests and nuns who are being tormented for eternity for failing to maintain their chastity vows during their lifetimes.
“That’s among my favorites,” said Elizabeth Morrison, the museum’s senior curator of manuscripts, as she pointed out a collection of beleaguered priests and nuns. She noted it is a reminder that today’s priestly sex scandals are nothing new.
As for Death himself, in an illustration for the prayer book “Denise Poncher Before Death,” he also appears much as he does today. He’s a big, boney fellow covered in worms and armed with his trademark scythe.
In fact he’s carrying four scythes in Marmion’s work and, looking rather jaunty, almost appears to be showing them off as he confronts Poncher, a beautiful young woman of means who art historians believe the expensive prayer book was created for.
“It reminds you that death could be lurking around any corner and you’d better be prepared because you want to go to Heaven, not Hell,” Morrison said of the message in the text and the illustration. “It’s a realization that, yes, I’m young and beautiful, but I could die at any time, and that’s why I need for my soul to be prepared.”
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- WOLF: The president's other Obamacare lies
- Tech companies call for an end to NSA online snooping
- Obama lied about Syrian chemical attack, 'cherry-picked' intelligence: report
- Ted Cruz sees legal landmines ahead for Obamacare
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- Chinese man fed up with his girlfriend's shopping jumps to his death
- MSNBC host: Obamacare a 'wealthy white men' racist word
- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- MILLER: Brady Campaign says Colorado recalls due to NRA, not grassroots opposition to gun control
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Brazen, leading-edge, “call it like it is” columns and reporting from Ohio native, radio host and writer, Sara Marie Brenner.
Let’s talk about everything, especially the absurdity of it all
Find the latest news and happening that effect those in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland Metro region.
Never apologetic. Never afraid. Lieutenant Colonel Allen B. West joins Communities to bring tales from the biggest Foxhole of them all, the one inside the Beltway.
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow