Orvieto Cathedral: Cappella di San Brizio Frescoes (Orvieto, Italy) : Appearance of the Antichrist and the Last Judgment, with grisaille work beneath the main scenes illustrating the pagan underworld as described by early poets

Angelico, Fra, ca. 1400-1455
Signorelli, Luca, ca. 1450-1523
Orvieto, Umbria, Italy
ca. 1444-1503 (inclusive)
Date Depicted:
500 AD - 1499 AD
Two side chapels lie off the main crossing of the cathedral. The Cappella del Corporale, on the north side, was built between 1350 and 1356: it is two bays deep, with quadripartite vaults. The Cappella di S Brizio, a virtually identical structure on the south side, was begun in 1408 and completed in 1444; it was decorated by such artists as Fra Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli and Luca Signorelli. Fra Angelico finished only two of the vault triangles: Christ as Judge and a gold-backed group of Prophets. The frescoes illustrating the End of the World are well documented. They are Signorelli's most complex and famous work. In 1499 he was contracted to finish the vault, abandoned 50 years before by Fra Angelico; the board liked the result and in 1500 assigned the decoration of the rest of the chapel to Signorelli. It was finished in 1503, with a break in 1502 when funds were lacking. In the scenes, which include the Last Judgement (in several parts, including the Damned, the Appearance of the Antichrist and the Resurrection of the Flesh) Signorelli explored the dramatic possibilities of the nude. By giving the demons near human form, but by colouring them with every shade of putrefying flesh, he made his cataclysmic vision fearful. Through his dynamic use of form and figural energy in the crowded scenes he created active compositional rhythms. Vasari wrote that Signorelli 'showed the way to represent nudes in painting as if alive'. Beneath the main scenes are remarkable small-scale grisaille scenes, which illustrate the underworld as described by pagan poets and Dante (the poets appear in the centre of each group of grisailles). Throughout the chapel the contours are often incised with a stylus; they were probably marked through a cartoon and in the grisailles correspond with the work of assistants, one of whom was his nephew, Francesco Signorelli (d 1559).
Variant Titles:
Duomo di Orvieto, Cappella di San Brizio
Architecture -- Italy -- 15th century -- (YVRC)
Accession Number:
chapels (rooms or structures) (AAT)
churches: cathedrals (AAT)
paintings (AAT)
Content Type:
Paintings & Drawings
Sculptures, Models, & Architecture
Copyright Scott Gilchrist, Archivision, Inc
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Access Restrictions:
Yale Community Only
cycles or series; death or burial; New Testament fresco painting (technique) visual works; paintings (visual works); frescoes (paintings) fresco
Source Creator:
Gilchrist, Scott
Source Title:
Archivision Module Two
Source Created:
2878 Chamonix, Montreal QC
Archivision, Inc.
Source Note:
Purchase, Visual Resources Collection, May, 2011; photographer Scott Gilchrist
Yale Collection:
Visual Resources Collection
Digital Collection:
Visual Resources Collection
Local Record Number: