Jul 10, 2007

Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell

c. 1850

Octave Tassaert

(French, 1800–1874)

Oil on fabric

Framed: 121 x 90.5 x 6.5 cm (47 5/8 x 35 5/8 x 2 9/16 in.); Unframed: 100 x 69.5 cm (39 3/8 x 27 3/8 in.)

Bequest of Noah L. Butkin 1980.287



This painting focuses upon the struggle between good and evil for the soul of a young woman. Looking out at the viewer, she is shown in the upper center of the composition, immediately below an angel and directly above Satan. At the upper right Saint Michael—holding scales for weighing the goodness of souls—admits the blessed to Heaven. Below, the Damned struggle to avoid the fiery pits of Hell and the demons that will torment them for eternity. At the time Tassaert painted this work, France was undergoing considerable political upheaval. In 1848, the country was wracked by a civil war between royalist and republican forces. Tassaert himself believed strongly in the Republic, and probably intended the young woman—caught between the sensual, worldly temptations of royalist excesses and the noble, pure ideals of the Republic—to personify the country of France.

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