Follower of Hieronymus Bosch, Netherlandish, c.1450-1516
Title: The Descent into Limbo
Date: 1550-1570
Medium: Oil on oak panel
Dimensions:
36.2 x 61.7 cm
Credit Line: Purchased, 1954
Object Number: NGI.1296
DescriptionAccording to the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus and Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda Aurea, Christ descended after his death but before his Resurrection into the first circle of Hell (limbo) to liberate and redeem the souls of the old testament and the heroes of classical antiquity. The bearded man hanging from the gallows is probably Judas. Having committed suicide by hanging, strongly repudiated by the Church in the sixteenth century, he cannot share in the redemption of the others.

Painted by a follower of Bosch, the work is likely to be a close rendering of a lost composition by Bosch, which Karel van Mander saw in Amsterdam and described in his renowned Schilder-Boeck (1604). The painting features three distinct types of light: the mandorla behind Christ’s body, the intense beam of white light shining from Heaven and the blazing light of a burning city representing Hell. These early depictions of con?agrations served as inspiration for nocturnal fire scenes popular in the Low Countries during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2016)
Exhibition HistoryCentenary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, October - December 1964
Label TextAccording to the gospel of Nicodemus, Christ descended after his death but before his Resurrection into the first circle of Hell (Limbo) to liberate and redeem the souls of the Old Testament. The man hanging on the gallows is probably Judas. Having committed suicide by hanging (strongly repudiated by the Church), he presumably cannot share in the redemption of the others. The painting features three distinct types of light: the mandorla behind Christ’s body, the white light from Heaven and the burning city representing Hell. The painting is probably a close repetition of a lost composition by Hieronymus Bosch.