Paint and Release
Lochner’s “Last Judgement” (Gallery 6) shows that the promise of resurrection and eternal life clearly had two sides to it: will I go to Heaven, or to Hell? A similar dilemma already marked life in the here and now. Politics, social systems, and above all medicine were not as advanced around 1500 as they are now. As a whole life in Europe was considerably shorter and more dangerous that it is today. How to suffer the blows of fate without losing one’s faith is told in the story of Job in the Bible, which is the subject of a triptych in Gallery 7. And the painting here by Dürer likewise refers to this biblical text.
The majority of the paintings in this room mirror in one way or another pain and release as two poles of physical, or indeed spiritual life: the birth of Christ as the Son of God brought light to the world, for it was he who first delivered the promise of eternal life. His Passion, beginning with his arrest, is seen as a sacrifice for humankind. Saintly martyrs such as Odilia, Apollina, or Sebastian emulated Christ’s sufferings and in this way gave painful testimony to their faith. For this, as their reward, they entered Paradise. But their tormentors and other sinners were to be damned at the Last Judgement and bound to roast in fire and brimstone.
A very different kind of torment was experienced by St Antony, who retired to the desert as a hermit in order to concentrate on God. With that he was visited by temptations (such as pride and lust), which the painter has depicted as monsters. They make the saint lose his footing in the truest meaning of the world.
Which are your heroes, saints or martyrs?