Posted: June 26th, 2015

Masaccio captures the power in God’s judgment in his portrayal of Adam and Eve being forcefully dismissed out of paradise

Art Appreciation                                                                                                                                                               -1-


Essay Topic Two: Faith in Judgment as Seen in Art


When I was younger, I was taught if you live your life with enlightenment in your heart and

goodness in your actions that God would accept you into heaven. I thought about that for a long time,

how could people know there was a heaven or if there is a supreme being that judges my every action if

they haven’t experienced it for themselves? Only in death will that information be confirmed. It seems

to me that people pass down stories that a supreme being will judge you for your actions and deem you

worthy, or, for every inhumane action one commits, there is an other-worldly consequence. For

example, when I was around five years old my Aunt put me to bed and before leaving she said, “You

have got to stay in your bed, or the monsters will come out.” This terrified me so I went to sleep

immediately, believing monsters were there judging my actions, making me obey my Aunt. The

following four pictures are from the textbook “Art: A Brief History”. I believe they express the moral of

those stories and the judgments in them.

This painted papyrus illustrated in “The Book of the Dead”, Judgment of Hunefer before Osiris,

(Fig. 3-22, Page 66) captures the tests one would have had to go through to prove themselves worthy of

life after death in ancient Egypt. A man named Hunefer goes through a series of tests to prove to Osiris

that he is righteous, these tests determine whether he is or isn’t. If Osiris deems he is righteous then he

is granted life after death. In the first scene at the top of the papyrus, Hunefer, who is wearing a white

robe with a golden collar consisting of black stripes, is being questioned by a group of gods about his life

and actions. A gold candle like object separates Hunefer, who is kneeling, from fourteen deities




all of whom are sitting in a straight line on a raised platform. Between the two scenes lie hieroglyphics.

In the second scene starting at the left and ending on the right, Anubis guides Hunefer to the second

test, a scene in which there is a large scale with a gold base and black balancing arms and with what

appears to be a head or symbol of a god on the top. On one side of the scale is Hunefer’s heart, on the

other, a feather symbolizing the god, Ma’at. With Anubis operating the scale, a being with the head of

an Ibis and a body of a human records the data being provided from the scale. A beast with the upper

body of a lion, covered with a long reddish mane, a lower body of a thick creature such as a hippo, and

the head of a crocodile overlooks the test, waiting to consume Hunefer if the scale tips. After Hunefer

passes both tests, he is guided by Horus, a deity with the head of a falcon, to the chamber of Osiris, the

god of the underworld. Osiris sits upon a golden throne on a raised platform as he holds a crook in his

right hand while his left hand holds a flail, symbolizing vegetation and fertility.

Adam and Eve weren’t worthy enough to stay in paradise because they disobeyed God’s rules,

and in God’s judgment, God exiled them from paradise. Masaccio’s, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve

from Paradise (12-24, Page 316) portrays what the expulsion would have looked like. This painting

depicts Adam and Eve being forced out of paradise by a blonde haired angel like figure, who is wearing a

light-red robe that around the knees turns into a reddish mist. This angel, equipped with a dark

broadsword and a mean facial expression, implies a forceful expulsion even though there are no cuts or

bruises on Adam, or Eve. While walking away from a stone gate, there is a dark matter being thrown or

spewed towards Adam from the gate which could symbolize disgust towards them. Naked and alone in

what looks like a mountainous area, Eve covers her breasts and lower extremities while Adam holds his

head while crying symbolizing embarrassment and shame.

One of the best visualizations of God’s judgment is Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (13-13, Page





338) is painted on the end wall behind the Alter in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. When I look at this

mural, I think of the apocalypse. Jesus is the focal point of this mural. He is positioned right above the

center of the mural while a bright light shines behind him as he overlooks the last judgment of earth.

Across the middle of the mural, there is a woman who could be Mary, the mother of Jesus, wearing a

pink robe and an eye catching blue raiment shining in the light. She stands beside Jesus while heavenly

figures, most of whom are nude, surround them. The look of panic and uncertainty across these

heavenly figures, whom may be angels or saints, eyes wide open with arms in the air as if they were

asking questions, shows the seriousness and magnitude of the event occurring. Painted on an arch in

the top left corner, there are angels carrying a cross while inside the arch on the top right, there are

angels carrying a pillar, both symbolizing Jesus and his strength. In the bottom left of the picture there

are humans in astonishment as they have been, once again, given life. Above them, others transcend to

the heavens, lifted by angels to the clouds. To the right of the humans who are still on land, lies an

opening in the ground. A red light radiates from within the opening while demons crawl out with the

look of destruction and chaos in their eyes. In the bottom right there is a boat with humans being

transported by the large pale green demon, Charon, across a river to Hell. In the entrance to Hell there

are men being trampled by other men who are trying to escape as tentacles lash from the opening of

Hell to snare them. Deep within this hellish opening lies a demon great in stature, standing tall above

the other creatures. This picture represents God’s judgment; God deems if one is worthy or not. If one is

worthy, they will transcend to heaven, if not they will taken over by demons.

When Francisco Goya created The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (17-22, Page 467) his

message was aimed towards fellow Spaniards to show them the foolish mistakes they were making at

the time and the consequences they will endure. This painting is of a woman sleeping in a chair with her

arms and head resting on a box with text on the front in Spanish, “The Sleep of Reason Produces



Monsters.” With this print in black and white, it creates a mystique around the woman. Behind her are

creatures that generally come out when it is dark outside, such as owls, cats and bats. The wildlife

closer to her is more defined so that you can make out their eyes, expressions, and where they are

looking. The further back you look the more the wildlife becomes a silhouette, enlarging in size thus

creating the aura of a monster. With the woman in the painting portraying reason, the monsters act as

the consequence for there being no reason present.

The one thread that ties these culturally diverse, religious pieces is their conveyance of

judgment. The ancient Egyptians believed that when one died, they had to pass a series of tests in order

to be granted life after death by Osiris. Masaccio captures the power in God’s judgment in his portrayal

of Adam and Eve being forcefully dismissed out of paradise. Through Michelangelo’s detailed study of

the Last Judgment we see the absolute glory of God’s judgment. Socially driven, Francisco Goya’s, The

Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, attempts to persuade the Spanish populace to make better

personal judgments using reason. In writing this essay, I’ve gathered that throughout history, humans

have instilled values through these stories and depictions to influence morality, and the sense of

right and wrong.

Scary stories to make people behave – great thesis! And well described. Really nice job on your paper, thanks for your hard work.   98/100

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