Crossing the River Styx
Lupa
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Although painted in the 15th century, Rogier van der Weyden’s solemn Pietà looks forward to the transformation of the following century. The old order had changed and Dürer now depicted himself as a gentleman (rejecting the traditional servile status of the artist), located before a window opening onto the ancient frontier of the Alps and towards an uncertain future. Like Heraclitus, man now became aware that “God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, abundance and famine.” This new, ambiguous and uncertain mood meant that Europe was no longer the centre of the universe. Nor, in the light of Copernicus’s discoveries, was the Earth, which had extended its boundaries towards the New World, as suggested by Patinir in Charon crossing the Styx. The fact that madness no longer solely pertained to the gods but also aff ected man is evident in Bosch’s Extraction of the Stone of Madness, while the new and equal status of individuals of other races and colours is expressed in The Adoration of the Magi by the Pseudo-Blesius in which the Christ Child is located on an unstable axis between David, the warrior king, and Solomon, the wise monarch. The saints now look away from the viewer, aware of their sins and temptations, while even the fi gure of the scourged or wounded Christ no longer brings consolation to suff ering humanity but rather the punishment of the Last Judgment and the certainty of Hell, as depicted by Bosch in his Table of the Seven Deadly Sins, repeated in the form of numerous imitations by his followers that were to be found in 16th-century collections.

 
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