A Wheelbarrow to Hell

In a previous post, The natural History of the Wheelbarrow, I published a series of images in which a woman was carried around in a wheelbarrow, usually by a loving husband or servants.

The first image, however, showed a devil carrying souls to hell in a wheelbarrow; the same MS ― ‘Taymouth Hours’, England (London?), second quarter of the 14th century, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 139v ― has a similar image in which a “lecherous woman” is pictured so that she herself looks like a wheelbarrow while she is led to hell by demons:


Detail of a bas-de-page scene showing a lecherous woman, from the ‘Taymouth Hours’, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 141v.

The wheelbarrow as a means of transport to a place of punishment was still well alive in the 16th century, when this print was published:


The small woodcut was prefixed to an early 16th century edition of an often-reprinted pamphlet by Maestro Andrea, Purgatorio delle Cortigiane, in which harlots lament their fate and describe their premature descent into hell on earth owing to the French disease, here represented by the sores and ulcers covering the woman’s body. I take the picture from Kurz, Hilde. “Italian Models of Hogarth’s Picture Stories.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 15.3/4 (1952): 136-68.

As Arturo Graf observed (Attraverso il cinquecento. Torino: Loescher, 1888. 272): “The Purgatorio delle cortigiane […] is not the ordinary purgatory, but the hospital of San Giacomo, known as the Incurables’ hospital, in Rome,”

In cui si vede paurosi mostri,
Qui è di Franza il dilettevol male,
E di San Lazer la lebbra gioconda,
Cancheri e malattie universale.

The wheelbarrow also appears in the same manuscript, Yates Thompson MS 13, on f. 184r, where a mother-ape is pushing her three children, presumably to escape from a big bear which appears in the facing f. 183v:



On f. 184v the ape has abandoned the wheelbarrow, and lost one of her children:


The short story comes to an end in the next page (f. 185r) when the mother finally finds a tree to climb, much to the bear’s chagrin:


The mother now seems to hold one child only, however.

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3 Responses to A Wheelbarrow to Hell

  1. Pingback: Son of A Wheelbarrow to Hell | A Blog of Bosh

  2. Pingback: More Wheelbarrows! | A Blog of Bosh

  3. Pingback: The Original Wheelbarrow Woman? | A Blog of Bosh

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