Art Spotlight: The Soul of Judas


'Judas Hanging Himself' by Giovanni Canavesio, 1491. DeAgostini/Getty

I chose a rather beautiful, uplifting image to accompany today's podcast episode "How much does a soul weigh?" But of course the notion of an immortal soul isn't always puffy clouds and sunsets. Just consider this 15th-century fresco by Giovanni Canavesio from Notre-Dame des Fontaines Chapel in La Brigue, France.

Here we see Judas Iscariot, the traitor apostle who, in Christian traditions, betrayed the incarnate God for 30 silver coins and then hanged himself out of shame and grief. There's also generally a good bit of disembowelment in deceptions (stemming from a description in the book of Acts), and here it's presented as a Xenomorph-style exit wound through which a demon steals the soul of Judas.

So there's the human soul depicted as a screaming, naked diminutive human. It's grisly stuff, and quite in keeping with the hellish dark side to belief in the survival of human consciousness.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.