The Anatomy of Sin
This collection draws on illustrations in old books on anatomy, botany and zoology in order to make a dissection of the symbols that tradition has associated from time immemorial with the seven deadly sins. Lust, sloth, gluttony, anger, envy, greed and pride are treated in the Bible and Dante's Divine Comedy as a recurring theme, whilst they are also referred to by Medieval and Renaissance writers alike, pairing a demon with each particular sin, and even an element of alchemy.
fig 1. Luxuria
The goat, present throughout history and different cultures, always associated with lust, impurity and sin, crowns a human skeleton in this portrayal of the first of the seven mortal sins. A goat as a wet nurse to Zeus in classical Greek culture, as a mount for the Vedic god Agni, and as an animal pulling Thor's chariot.
Hourglasses are widely found in the Vanitas still-life paintings of the Baroque period, symbolically representing the fragility and brevity of life.
The hourglass precisely symbolised the passing of time and the brevity of earthly life.
fig 3. Gula
A person with an over-sized gut and the presence of Beelzebub, the lord of the flies and the demon of gluttony, through a fly resting on the stomach. A crown of vine leaves provides the finishing touch to the head of this slave to excessive eating and drinking, representing Bacchus, the god devoted to earthly pleasures.
fig 4. Ira
Amon is the demon that Peter Binsfeld related to this capital sin in 1589. A demon described as being a man with the head of a raven and the teeth of a dog. According to Dante's description in the Divine Comedy, the punishment for slaves to anger is dismemberment under the watchful eye of the Minotaur.
fig 5. Invidia
In Dante's purgatory, the sin of envy is punished by sewing shut the eyes of those sinners gazing with desire at the fortune and wealth of others. In Christian tradition, the serpent is identified with envy in the Book of Genesis.
fig 6. Avaritia
A human skull with a crown portrays greed, as does the figure of the magpie, being an animal which hoards bright, seemingly valuable objects in its nest, according to popular tradition. In the background, the establishments of the church and nobility are represented by their possessions, temples and palaces.
fig 7. Superbia
Lucifer is the demon paired with pride, a light bearing demon in Roman mythology. In classical Greece, this demon was the bearer of the Aurora or morningstar, which comes from the ancient Luciferian dark lady.
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