Oil paintings, Fine art, Maritime Art Greenwich

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The Fall of Lucifer

Oil paintings

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Object ID BHC0706
Description This is one of the earliest paintings in the collection and in a northern European tradition introduces elements of the grotesque. Set in a seascape and landscape the forces of good and evil are engaged in a struggle. This is enacted through a direct representation of the biblical story of the fall of Lucifer and through the battles portrayed in the bottom right between the ships and on land. The ships fire at each other and, on the land, a battle is under way between the troops on the shoreline, some of which are mounted. There are the contrasts between light and dark, good and evil, peace and war and some figures wear light clothes and some dark, indicating the spiritual battle between the forces of light and dark. In Christian belief, a fallen angel is the enemy of God and actively promotes evil. The picture typifies Medieval and early Renaissance art in which Lucifer tumbles from heaven, acquiring tail, claws and other demoniac features as he descends to the bottomless pit. Lucifer, oversized to underscore his representation of the evil in the world, lands on the water, overseen by angels with lances, top left. Heaven is here indicated by representations of both the angels and God enthroned. In the 16th century the theme developed to merge with the war in heaven and the parallel of the biblical conflict between St Michael and Satan. The Renaissance took its image of Lucifer from the classical satyr with its horns and cloven hoof, signifying that paganism was the enemy of the Church. This painting combines elements of this iconography to create an allegory of the forces of good and evil.
Date made Late 15th century to mid 16th century

Artist/Maker Bles, Herri met den
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Macpherson Collection
Materials oil on panel
Measurements Painting: 535 mm x 420 mm; Frame: 688 mm x 577 mm x 67 mm;Overall weight: 6.6 kg;
  • The Fall of Lucifer (BHC0706)
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