Discussion: After Death

Provide the title, artist's name (if available) style and or period and geographic location of each work.

Both of these works are based on literature and religious stories from each culture. They might even be kinds of “maps.” Name the two books, and use of works of art and what you know about the two books to compare and contrast the works and the ideas they contain.Provide as much detail as you can about the symbols, formal qualities and context as possible.


  1. The first image is called The Last Judgment, from the Proto Renaissance period, and by Giotto. The second image is called the Sarcophagus lid of Lord Pacal from the Mesoamerican Mayan period, Palenque, 680CE. The first image is from the New Testament and is representing the last day on earth when Jesus comes for the second time and decides where our fate lies (In heaven or hell) You can see the angels lifting some up to heaven and demons dragging others down to hell. The second image is also a representation of a sort of judgment time where one is leaving earth to either the upper or under world. The first symbol I noticed was the world tree representing the middle world. I notice that the tree is on top of a man on the sarcophagus lid may represent that his body is laying on earth while his spirit rises. These both have very similar stories and are ultimately representing the same thing, which is life after death.

  2. These two artworks are based on two religious books; Bible - collection of texts considered sacred in Judaism or Christianity, and Popol Vuh - the Mayan Book of the Dawn of Life. Both artworks are the representation of the Christian and Mayan culture in the depths of how they value life and death.
    "The Last Judgment" fresco by Giotto from 1300 AD, covers the west wall of the Arena Chapel in Padua and represents the scene from Bible - the Last Judgment, while the Sarcophagus Lid of Lord Pacal was made for the tomb of the Mayan king Pacal in 680 CE in Mesoamerica and depicted the instant Pakal's death and fall into the Underworld.
    In Giotto's fresco the central focus is on enthroned Christ (the Supreme Judge), who is in hieratic scale, meaning he is the largest figure of a composition. Christians are monotheists meaning they believe in one God, therefore in Giotto's fresco Christ is the center figure that represents the Christianity. Very different religious approached is shown in Mayan culture, where polytheistic culture (believing in various gods and religious figures) focuses on Lord Pacal, who indeed see himself as a god. Pacal is also in hieratic scale and is the center of the composition, however in contrast to Christ, Pacal is the one who will be judge by its gods.
    Christian and Mayan cultures differ in religion, however they show the similarity in values and the way they see the death and afterlife. In Giotto's fresco on a right and left hand side of Christ are the twelve apostles, together they creates the divide line between the heaven above and the two sections under that shows people in a river of blood in hell and people who are led by angels toward heaven. These division also represents the separation between the order (heaven), and chaos (hell). In Mayan culture we can't see this order, however his fall into open mouth of Xibalba inside the underworld. Both cultures are aware that hell in nothing pleasure and it is important for both cultures to behave well in Earth life in order to go to heaven.
    In both cultures human was the last creation of the god/gods who seems to either defy or dissatisfy the god. Both cultures know that after death they will be judge for what they did in their life. Therefore both artworks were deductive, meaning they were some sort of maps that show how people should behave in order to go to heave. Both artworks shows the hell as something very scary ( the wild open mouth of monster Xibalba, and the Lucifer who in Giotto's fresco is eating people and torturing them for what they did in Earth life. Moreover in Christian religion people believe in perfect God (Christ), while in Mayan polytheistic religion Gods were making mistakes, yet they had the power to fix them. Bible and the Popul Vuh have moral effect on the people reading them, therefore people have a better understanding of where they going and what will happen after the death.

  3. It is also important to add that Dante might have gotten his ideas of heaven and hell described in "The Divine Comedy" from Giotto's work.

    1. Hi Kayla,

      Just a little correction. Dante wrote his poem first and seems to have influenced Giotto.