A peculiar picture of Hell where the demonic world is associated with the universe outside Europe.
The painting offers us a mediaeval image of Hell, cataloguing the eternal torments related to the deadly sins. The figuration of Vanity in the form of three naked women, hanging upside down with their hair on fire, directs our attention to the three graces of Apollo’s retinue. The lovers, bound together and symbolising Lust, at the opposite end of the painting, seem to come straight out of Dante, highlighting the picture’s plurality of iconographic sources.
This diversity can also be seen in the linking of the demonic world to the universe outside Europe: Lucifer has a headdress of Amerindian feathers, and is depicted sitting on an African chair, holding an African-looking ivory horn; another demon is also clad in feathers.
Portuguese painting was quick to incorporate the Brazilian Indian into the world of Christianity. But, only a short while after his depiction as one of the Wise Men, in the altarpiece from Viseu Cathedral (1501-1506), the Indian was used in this work to symbolise the angels of evil.


  • Title: The Hell
  • Creator: Unknown Portuguese master
  • Date Created: 16th century
  • Location Created: Portugal
  • Physical Dimensions: 119 cm x 218 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: MNAA Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, inv. 432 Pint
  • Medium: Oil on oak panel

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