Attributed to Giulio Parigi

This impressive drawing depicts the gaping jaws of a bestial monster—the anthropomorphized portal into hell, where demons and fantastical creatures cavort among the flames. A popular iconography during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the hell mouth was a regular feature on the stage, especially in dramatizations of Christian narratives like the Harrowing of Hell and the Last Judgment. This seventeenth-century set, however, probably accompanied one of the increasingly popular stagings of mythological narratives in which a protagonist descended into the underworld. The visual language of this apocalyptic inferno recalls the stage designs of Giulio Parigi, an influential festival designer at the Medici court in Florence.

Attributed to Giulio Parigi (1571–1635)
A Hell Mouth, ca. 1620
Pen and brown and black ink, with gray wash, over traces of black chalk
Gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager; 1982.75:451