The present drawing depicts the entrance to Hades, the underworld. Death is represented by the skeleton to the left of the composition, who holds the brazier from which the bare-chested woman lights her torch. The nightmare intensifies as a winged demon hovers over the central female figure, holding thunderbolts and snakes in his hands. To the upper left sits King Minos, judge of the dead, who is accompanied by the three-headed dog Cerberus. To the right of the composition are the three fates, who in turn all handle the thread of human life.
This is an imaginative and ambitious composition demonstrating David's immense creative powers. Stylistically, it can be compared to another highly finished drawing, An allegorical scene, in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which also includes the skeletal figure of death and the three fates.2
1. M. Newcome, 'Drawings by Giovanni David' in Master Drawings, 1993, vol. 31, no. 4, p. 469
2. Inv. no. 1978-62-2; Newcome, op.cit., fig. 4
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