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St Michael weighing a soul

  • Object:

    Panel

  • Place of origin:

    Nuremberg (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1470 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Clear and coloured glass with painted details

  • Credit Line:

    Given by J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr

  • Museum number:

    C.45-1919

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries, case S4

This panel may have formed a single image for private devotion or it may have been part of a larger scene depicting the ‘Last Judgement'. The archangel Michael was one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. People throughout Europe revered him for his powers of protection and because of the part he was thought to play at the Last Judgement.

In Christian teaching, at the Second Coming of Christ the dead will rise from their tombs to be judged and sent to heaven or to hell. St Michael holds the scales of judgment and weighs the souls of the resurrected. A righteous soul will tip the balance of the scales downward. In this panel we see small devils trying to tip the scales in their favour.

At this time, depictions of the Last Judgement usually show Christ seated on a throne surrounded by the Apostles, who sit in judgment with him. Below, the dead rise from their tombs. On the right of Christ, angels conduct the favourably judged souls to heaven. On the left, devils carry the damned down to the torments of hell. St. Michael often appears in the lower foreground of the image, holding the scales.

Numerous chapels dedicated to St Michael exist. They are often situated on hill-top sites, where people believed the archangel had appeared. Mont St Michael in France and St. Michael’s Mount off the Cornish coast in England are two examples.

Physical description

Stained glass panel depicting St. Michael weighing the soul of a woman, in an attitude of piety, inclining the scales in her favour, while three demons with a millstone attempt to outweigh her. St. Michael holds the scales and a crozier in his left hand, and a sword uplifted in his right.

Place of Origin

Nuremberg (possibly, made)

Date

ca. 1470 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Clear and coloured glass with painted details

Dimensions

Height: 69 cm, Width: 48.5 cm

Object history note

Believed to have come from St. Lorenz Church in Nuremberg.

Historical context note

This panel may have formed a single devotional image or it may have been part of a larger 'Last Judgement' scene. St. Michael was one of the most popular saints of the Middle Ages, revered throughout Europe for his powers of protection and because of the part he was thought to play at the Last Judgement.

In Christian teaching, at the Second Coming of Christ the dead will rise from their tombs and be judged and sent to heaven or to hell. The Archangel Michael holds the scales of judgment and weighs the souls of the resurrected. A righteous soul will weigh the balance of the scales downward. In this panel we see small devils trying tip the balance in their favour.

The usual depiction of the Last Judgement at this time is one of Christ seated on a throne surrounded by the Apostles who sit in judgment with him. The dead are seen below rising from their tombs. On the right of Christ angels conduct those who have been judged favourably to heaven. On the left, devils carry the damned down to the torments of hell. St. Michael holding the scales often appears in the lower foreground of the image.

Numerous chapels dedicated to the Archangel Michael still exist. They are often on hill-top sites where he had been said to have made an appearance. Mont St Michael in France and St. Michael's Mount off the Cornish coast in England are two of these chapels.

Descriptive line

Clear and coloured glass with painted details depicting the Archangel Michael Weighing a Soul. Made in Germany (Nuremberg?), c.1470.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Williamson, Paul. Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2003. ISBN 1851774041
Mitteilungun der Antiquarischen Gesellschaft in Zurich, vol.XXVI (1908-12)

Production Note

South Germany

Subjects depicted

Millstone; Demons; Saints; Crosier; Scales; Woman; Sword

Categories

Stained Glass; Religion; Christianity

Collection

Ceramics Collection

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