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The story of Christ's descent into Limbo to rescue the souls of the righteous who lived before his time enjoyed a special place in the European popular imagination. This vision of Hell, its eternal darkness broken by Christ's dazzling entry, is exceptionally vivid. The composition may derive from a lost work by Hieronymus Bosch.
When he came to the edge of darkness like some splendid, terrible raider, the impious infernal legions, terrified as they gazed on him, began to ask: ‘Whence is he, so strong, so terrible, so splendid, so noble? . . . Who then is this, who comes to our gates so boldly, and not only has no fear of our torments but also frees others from our chains?-Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend, about 1260
(R. Van de Broek, Brussels, Belgium); purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1963.