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Between Heaven and Hades

"Between Heaven and Hades: Journeys in Renaissance and Baroque Prints", Curated by Klare Scarborough and Susan Dixon, on view September 13 - December 15, 2017.

We often envision the realms of Heaven and Hades as above and below us, respectively, and inhabited by supernatural beings. In ancient classical literature, the Olympian gods look down on earth from the heavens, while the gods of the underworld preside over the realms of the dead. In Christian belief, the three persons of the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—reside in the heavenly kingdom on high, while Satan and his legions reign below. We generally think of these otherworldly realms as inaccessible to mortals until the moment of their death. Yet both classical and Christian texts feature many stories of encounters between mortals, demons, angels, and gods. The journeys that make these encounters possible can be fated, difficult or joyful, with consequences both tragic and sublime. The journeys are always transformational.

This exhibition explores the theme of journeys between Heaven and Hades as illustrated in European Renaissance and Baroque prints from c. 1400-1750. On Wall 1, various mythological deities, saints and mortals ascend from earth to the heavens. On Wall 2, deities and angelic figures descend to earth to reveal themselves to mortals and influence their actions. Wall 3 illustrates mythological and Christian figures descending to the underworld, and the infamous Dance with Death, which highlights the macabre intertwining of life and death in the artistic imagination. On Wall 4, the journey ends with the Last Judgment, when the world as we know it ceases to exist. The displays invite us to reflect on the interesting connections, parallels, and continuities between classical and Christian stories.

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