Folio 87 The Hell of trades
Just as the beatific vision of “sovereign Jerusalem” occupies several paintings, the vision of Hell also continues, this folio being the third part of the four compositions devoted to eternal suffering, painted on a flame-colour ground. The forms of torture are depicted with a wealth of detail: not according to the vices and their categories, with an appropriate punishment for each of the seven capital sins. Those who delight in doing evil, the wicked condemned to the “second death”, are depicted here being punished according to their activities on earth. The outcome is a hell of trades portrayed in three registers that continues on the following page.
The sequence begins with the blacksmiths. Thrown face downwards across his anvil, one is hammered by two devils whilst his companion, attacked and torn apart by a devil holding him over a pair of bellows (?), is about to be sawn in two. Alongside is a cooper, a wine merchant or tavern owner – which a later hand has rendered more female by adding breasts – astride a barrel leaning on a press screw (?), who is struck with a jug before being blinded with an awl.
The butcher depicted in the middle register fares no better. He lies upon his stall beneath links of sausages whilst several devils prepare to skin him and chop him up with an axe. The silver fish hanging from a bar glisten whilst their fishmonger is thrown into his fishpond; a dyer, also turned into a woman, is plunged into a boiling vat with a hook to be stewed for ever more.
The last series of torture shows a carpenter carrying an adze having his nose twisted by a devil with a pair of pliers. A man holding a mallet and a flatfish-shaped billhook, possibly a carpenter or sculptor, has his legs crushed beneath a plank or slab whilst a demon cracks his scull open with a chisel. Finally, the moneychanger is seized, scales in hand, and beaten with a bag of crowns.
Marie-Thérèse Gousset and Marianne Besseyre
Centre de Recherche sur les Manuscrits Enluminés, Bibliothèque nationale de France
Fragment of the commentary volume of The Apocalypse of 1313