The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Beast Acheron

Object Details


The Beast Acheron


Simon Marmion (Flemish, active 1450 - 1489)




Ghent, Belgium; Valenciennes, France (Place Created)




Tempera colors, gold leaf, gold paint, and ink on parchment

Object Number:

Ms. 30 (87.MN.141.17), fol. 17

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Object Description

In this miniature, Tondal's wandering soul observes the punishments meted out in Hell to the greedy. The illuminator has envisioned the entrance to Hell as the mouth of the beast Acheron, whose name derives from Greek mythology, referring to the river in Hades or Hell. This creature rolls its horrid eyes, its mouth gaping threateningly wide; two devils impaled on its sharp teeth hold its mouth open. Inside, souls endure brutal torment in a fiery furnace. Flames from this hot pit, represented with wispy brushstrokes of blue, red, orange, yellow, and green, lap about the edges of the beast's upper lip. The artist, Simon Marmion, represented Tondal's soul as a naked and vulnerable figure. In the Middle Ages, souls were commonly represented as nude human figures, expressing the idea that the trappings of the material world are shed in death. Except for the angel's blue robe, which is brightened with gold flecks and lines, Marmion saturated this scene with the dark, vivid colors he reserved for Hell.

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