Christ Descending to Hell | MSK Gent
Ga naar inhoud (Enter)

Christ Descending to Hell, 1895

  • etching, paper
  • 84 x 136 mm
  • Inv. 1998-B-103

Public Domain

Download PDF

According to apocryphal texts, Christ visited Limbo after his death on the cross to redeem Adam and the righteous. This story offered artists throughout the centuries the opportunity to confront good and evil. This remarkable episode also fascinated Ensor. The motif of Christ descending into hell inspired the artist here to create a whimsical tessellation with grotesque heads, between which twisting flames rise. In the midst of this inferno, Christ floats in a long robe. The print is a simplified version of the drawing of the same name from 1891 (private collection). Ensor used the same theme in the print "The devils Dzitts and Hihanox lead Christ to hell", as well as the print "Christ descends into hell", also created in 1895 (inv. 1998-B-90).


James Ensor RKD VIAF Wikidata
Ostend 1860 - Ostend 1949

Title Christ Descending to Hell
Date 1895
Period 19th century
Medium and support etching AAT
Signatures, inscriptions, and markings signature and year top right: J.Enso95 [sic]
signature and year bottom right: James Ensor 1895
inscription top left: 15
inscription on the reverse: AT
title on the reverse: Le christ descendant aux enfers
inscription on the reverse: 24 / LD 103
Collection print room
Object type etching AAT
Inventory number 1998-B-103
Acquisition credit purchase
Taevernier, Auguste (coll.)
Current whereabouts Work currently not on display
IIIF Manifest
Art & Architecture Thesaurus 300055874 religious symbolism AAT
300056485 fantastic art AAT
Keywords Iconclass 11D Christ Iconclass
11L541414 Hell (as one of the Four Last Things) Iconclass
11T hell and purgatory Iconclass
11T2(+4) symbols of hell (+ devil(s)) Iconclass
11T5 the damned souls, and their punishment Iconclass
21C fire (one of the four elements) Iconclass
25F9 mis-shapen animals; monsters Iconclass
41B162 smoke Iconclass
73 New Testament Iconclass
73D9 Christ in the underworld, harrowing of hell, Christ in Limbo, 'descensus ad inferos', 'Anastasis' Iconclass
School / Style phantasy
satire (artistic device) AAT
historicism (theory) AAT
Henri Leys, Henri de Braekeleer, James Ensor / Loys Delteil. - Paris : Chez l'Auteur, 1925 (nr. 103)
James Ensor : Catalogue illustré de ses gravures ; Leur description critique et l'inventaire des plaques = Geïllustreerde catalogus van zijn gravures ; Hun kritische beschrijving en inventaris van de platen = Illustrated catalogue of his engravings ; Their critical description and inventary of the plates / Auguste Taevernier. - Ledeberg (Gent) : Erasmus Boekhandel bv Amsterdam, 1973 (nr. 103)
Do you have any suggestions, questions or information about this work?
Write us,