Mikhail Klodt, Ivan the Terrible Visited by the Ghosts of Those He Murdered (Ивану Грозному являются тени им убитых)

Stavropol Region Fine Arts Museum (Ставропольский краевой музей изобразительного искусства)

Date: 19th century
Technique: Paper, ink and gouache, 27 x 39 cm


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Daniel's Vision of the Four Beasts

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

Date: 1655
Technique: Etching, drypoint and burin on paper, 10.7 x 7.6 cm


Jean-Paul Laurens, Pope Formosus and Stephen VI - The Cadaver Synod (Le Pape Formose et Etienne VI - Concile cadavérique de 897)

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes

Date: 1870
Technique: Oil on canvas

The Cadaver Synod (also called the Cadaver Trial or, in Latin, the Synodus Horrenda) is the name commonly given to the posthumous ecclesiastical trial of Catholic Pope Formosus, held in the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome during January of 897. The trial was conducted by Formosus's successor, Pope Stephen (VI) VII. Stephen accused Formosus of perjury and of having acceded to the papacy illegally. At the end of the trial, Formosus was pronounced guilty and his papacy retroactively declared null. The Cadaver Synod is remembered as one of the most bizarre episodes in the history of the medieval papacy.


Calcedonio Reina, Love and Death (Amore e morte)

Museo civico al Castello Ursino, Catania

Date: 1881
Technique: Oil on canvas

Calcedonio Reina (Catania 1843-1911) trained with Domenico Morelli, one of the greatest of Neapolitan painters. Later, he continued his studies in Rome and Florence, creating many works in the Classic style.

Love and Death (1881) shows a passionate kiss between two lovers in the Capuchin catacombs in Palermo. The artist portrays the lace trimming of the girl’s skirts with meticulous care, contrasting the delicate white garment with the sepulchral background.

Morelli’s influence is evident in the use of colour, the work on the draperies and the concentration on Classical themes adapted to suit the Romantic style, even if Reina distances himself from that style by creating his own, more intimate kind of poetics.

Like the famous painting of The Kiss by Francesco Hayez, a Venetian artist of the Romantic movement, the faces of the two lovers are hidden to give the act itself more prominence. The attention of the Romantics to the dichotomy between eros (love) and thanatos (death), between the absolute and the sublime, is summarised perfectly, so that something which is horrifying and fearsome becomes beautiful.

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