The Three Living and the Three Dead, The Triumph of Death, The Last Judgment and Hell

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Buonamico Buffalmacco's The Three Living and the Three Dead, The Triumph of Death, The Last Judgement and Hell, 1330
by ELIZABETH ELLIS 

Buonamico Buffalmacco's The Three Living and the Three Dead, The Triumph of Death, The Last Judgement and Hell features angels carrying the fortunate away, demons casting the unfortunates into a bloody mass grave while a garden party goes on, and clergy members tucked away into the countryside while a funeral procession for royalty passes by below them. Buffalmacco's only surviving artwork predicts the Black Death that would soon come to decimate cities while those in the countryside survived. His iconography of the angels and demons reflects the thoughts at time; God was punishing people and death would overtake everyone. 

"Since prosperity has completely deserted us, O Death, you who are the medicine for all pain, come to give us our last supper." 

This phrase is written on scrolls held up by angels over the heads of beggars. It exemplifies the desperate tone of the stricken people suffering from disease, poverty, and death surrounding them in direct comparison to the levity of the youths enjoying themselves in nature and peacefulness of the religious members in the upper lefthand corner. 

Buffalmacco's painting of the group of young people in a garden in the lower righthand corner likely inspired the basis for Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, which features a group of young adults who travel to the countryside to avoid the plague and sit around telling stories. In fact, Buffalmacco appears as a main character and trickster in three of Boccaccio's stories in Decameron.

Buffalmacco's frescoes are currently located at the Camposanto Veccio in Pisa, Italy. I am lucky enough to have been able to travel there, though I was unable to go inside the building because of renovations. I would have loved to see his frescoes and experience the contrasting imagery in person. 

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