The Harrowing of Hell ; or, Christ in Limbo

From the Engraved Passion

Illustrated by Albrecht Dürer



This illustration was prepared as one of 16 images completing Dürer's Engraved Passion series (The Harrowing of Hell;

or, Christ in Limbo being the 14th of the set).


Mrs Charles W Heaton (The History of the Life of Albrecht Durer of Nurnberg with a Translation of His Letters and

Journal and Some Accounts of His Work: Seeley, Jackson and Halliday, London; 1881), in an early comprehensive

biographical work, provides the following description of this wonderful illustration:


Here again Dürer, as in the somewhat similar compositions in the Great and Little Passion,

has entirely departed from the conventional method of representing hell; indeed, I do

not believe that he had any idea in his mind when it conceived this strange subject of

representing the Catholic hell, or purgatory, in the meaning that was then attached to

those terms; the beautiful print lying before me seems capable of a far deeper and more

universal application than this. These are not disembodied spirits, but real men and

women, whom the coming of Christ sets free from the chain of their sins. The beams of

divine love and pity have pierced the dark mansion in which they so long have dwelt,

and gladly they accept the brother-hand that is held out to help them. The figure of

Christ here is most grand: majesty and love inextricably mingled - strength and

tenderness for ever combined. But the principal idea that this figure conveys to my mind

is that of Help - power to help - help to ascend from the underground abodes of doubt,

darkness, and despair towards the blessed light of God's love, which shines over all His

universe, although we sometimes bury ourselves in underground cells, and refuse to look

out and see it ...


In this print we are now considering, it is not the grand figure of Christ, solemn and

beautiful as that is; it is not the well-drawn figures of Adam and Eve, although Eve here

is much pleasanter to behold than Dürer generally makes her; it is not the noble and

mournful face looking out wistfully from the vaults, although this awakens yearnings

of sympathy in our hearts; it is not the shapes bred of darkness that lurk around; it is

not even the great dragon curling over the arch through which Christ has entered,

and poking at Adam's head with a spear - a dragon who,


"Wroth to see his kingdom fail,

Swindges the scaly horror of his folded tail."


No, it is none of these things, but it is the sense of something beyond these things,

something of which they are but the symbols, which affects us so strongly, and awes us

with the same kind of giddy feeling we experience in looking down an abyss of which

we cannot see the bottom.


In execution this plate leaves nothing to be desired. It ranks amongst Dürer's most

finished works, as indeed do all the plates of the Passion in Copper.




Our Greeting Cards and Reproduction Prints


Should you wish to order a Reproduction Print or an individual Greeting Card of this image, we have provided

some options below. Of course, should you wish to discuss some customised options, we welcome your contact

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In the meantime, enjoy perusing this glorious illustration by Albrecht Dürer.



The illustration



Single Greeting Card (with matching Envelope)

Price: US$5.00


Reproduction on 8x12" sheet

Code: AD HH (8x12)
Price: US$30.00


  Reproduction on 10x15" sheet

Code: AD HH (10x15)
Price: US$50.00




Some details from the illustration


Christ rescuing Souls from Limbo Adam and Eve A demonic beast and a tortured Soul Dürer's monogram