christ in limbo, 1460s, tempera on pine panel, 85 x 71,5 cm
museum of fine arts, budapest
(active 1470-80 in Tyrol)
As a fulfillment of redemption, Christ, having broken open the gates of hell, has brought with him the pious figures of the Old Testament, holding Adam by the hand as the symbolical incorporation of the whole of humanity. Allusions to this forced invasion, a favoured incident of popular legends and mystery plays, are found even in the Divine Comedy; here it is indicated by cracked and broken stones. It is typical of medieval thinking that hell is represented as a well-guarded building of huge stones, a sort of immense fortified prison; the notions of release, heaven, enjoyment of the delights of Paradise, are conveyed by a fresh green meadow encircled by mountains and forests of fantastic shape, worthy of the imagination of a Tyrolese painter. As symbol of his triumph over death, Christ holds the banner of victory in his hand; the wounds on his hands and feet are clearly visible.