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Video transcript
(piano playing) Dr. Zucker: Below the Passion scene is even more painting. There are these marvelous representations of virtues and vices, that is expressions of good and evil. Dr. Harris: We're looking at the figure of Envy. Dr. Zucker: It's one of my favorite figures. Dr. Harris: Here is a figure in profile engulfed in flames, clutching a bag. Dr. Zucker: But reaching with her other hand for something she does not have, something that she wants. Dr. Harris: She's not content with what she has, she wants more. Dr. Zucker: She's got huge ears. It's as if every sense is attuned to what she does not have. Dr. Harris: We see emerging from her mouth, a snake, who moves toward her eyes. Dr. Zucker: That's right, it doubles back on itself because it is what she sees that bites her, in a sense. Dr. Harris: We have virtues and vices here because these are the good and evil that we confront, all of us, in our lives and these are the things that decide at the day of Judgement we go to Heaven or Hell. Dr. Zucker: They are, in a sense, abstractions of the ideas that are told in the stories above. The final virtue, as we move towards the exit of the Chapel is Hope and she is reaching upward, floating, a classicized figure. Dr. Harris: And she's winged like an Angel and is lifted up toward a figure on the upper right who's handing her a crown. Dr. Zucker: So, Hope, because she is in the corner is looking up towards The Last Judgement and is of the same scale. Her body is in the same diagonal position as the elect in the bottom left corner. Dr. Harris: We see the elect, many of them with their hands in positions of prayer looking up towards the enormous figure of Christ, the largest figure in this Chapel. Dr. Zucker: We should say that the elect are the blessed, that is these are people that are going to Heaven. You'll see that they are actually accompanied by Angel's that look so caring and gentle. They're shepherding these people into Heaven. If you look carefully you can see that there feet are not on the ground, they're actually levitating slightly, they're rising up. Dr. Harris: There's benevolent, generous expressions on the face of those Angel's as they look at all of these individuals who've made the choices in their lives that have lead them to this moment of being blessed. Dr. Zucker: The choices that are laid out for us in the virtues and vices in the bottom panels. Just below the elect you can see that there are what seem to be children, naked, coming out of coffins, out of tombs. Those nude figures are meant to represent the souls that are to be judged by Christ, who as you said, sits in the middle. He sits here as Judge to judge those souls that are being wakened from the dead to determine whether or not they are blessed and get to go to Heaven or if they're going to end up on the right side of this painting in Hell. Dr. Harris: This follows very standard iconography or standard composition of The Last Judgement with the blessed, those who are going to Heaven on Christ's right and the damned below on Christ's left. Just either side of Christ, though, that division of left and right doesn't happen. Dr. Zucker: That's because this is Heaven. Dr. Harris: There we see accord of Saint's and around that mandorla, that sort of fully body halo around Christ we see Angel's blowing trumpets. Dr. Zucker: These are images that come right out of the Apocalypse, the Gospel according to John. Dr. Harris: The book of Revelation. Dr. Zucker: We have the Angel's announcing the end of time. We have Angel's above them rolling up the sky as if it were a scroll. These are images that we generally see in Last Judgement's because they are in the text of the Bible. Dr. Harris: The scene of Hell on the lower right with a large blue figure that is meant to represent Satan, surrounding him are souls being tortured in Hell. Dr. Zucker: A lot of this imagery is inspired, I think, indirectly by the work of Dante who had not so long ago, written the Divine Comedy, which was extremely popular, and he describes the landscape of Hell. Dr. Harris: He equates the punishments of Hell with the different kinds of sins that people committed. So, in The Last Judgement that we're looking at and because the patron here was concerned with the send of usury, we see usurer's featured and they're being hung with the bags of money on the ropes that they're hanging from. Dr. Zucker: Right, usury is requiring interest for when you lend money. It's basically just the act of banking and that was a mortal sin. In fact, Dante speaks at great length about the usurer's who have their moneybags hanging from their necks and are in one of the lowest of the circles of Hell. Below the usurer's you can actually make out a specific individual, also hanged, this is Judas, the Disciple that betrays Christ. Dr. Harris: So anyone leaving the Chapel from this exit would look up at this scene of The Last Judgement, up at the cross carried by two Angel's. Perhaps they would notice that figure that I just noticed, a figure behind the cross, sort of grasping it for dear life. And would have also looked up and have seen Enrico Scrovegni, himself, the patron offering this Chapel to the three Mary's. Dr. Zucker: As the public would have walked outside after a sermon, after mass perhaps, they would be reminded right before they walk back into the world, the world of desire, the world of sin, that the sacrifice that Christ had made, that story that had unfolded in this Chapel comes down to decisions that they need to make in their own life. This is in a sense a kind of last reminder before you walk out, to take these stories seriously. Dr. Harris: Giotto makes it very easy for us to do that by painting these figures in their humanity, by making the narrative so easy and clear to read and by making something so beautiful; recognized for its beauty even when it was first painted. Dr. Zucker: That's right, even in its own day. (piano playing)