Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, The Souls of Acheron, 1898

Yesterday we showed a serene scene of figures crossing the River Styx (which is fed by the River Acheron, aka: the river of woe), but today’s painting by Hirémy-Hirschl is much more dramatic. Here the principal figure is the god Hermes (in the winged hat and dark blue robes), whose job it was to bring the recently deceased from the upper to the lower world, where they went on to complete their journey across the River Acheron and into the underworld (the oarsman Charon can be seen on the black waters in the distance, coming to ferry these wretched souls). The dead plead with Hermes to let them return to the upper world, but he ignores their cries as he strides through the bodies to meet Charon at the shore. Once these souls cross the river, they will never come back.

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