St Michael weighing a soul thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 84, The Whiteley Galleries

St Michael weighing a soul

Panel
ca. 1470 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Clear and coloured glass with painted details
Brief Description
Clear and coloured glass with painted details depicting the Archangel Michael Weighing a Soul. Made in Germany (Nuremberg?), c.1470.
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 69cm
  • Width: 48.5cm
Credit line
Given by J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr
Object history
Believed to have come from St. Lorenz Church in Nuremberg.
Historical context
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.
Production
South Germany
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic References
  • 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)
Collection
Accession Number
C.45-1919

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record createdAugust 8, 2002
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