Burghley House
Tour of the House - The Heaven Room and the Hell Staircase
The Heaven Room
"Gods and Goddesses disporting themselves as Gods and Goddesses are wont to do..."

This is how the masterpiece by Antonio Verrio - The Heaven Room - is described in a 19th century guide book. As you look around this extraordinary room you feel it transports you into another world. Although a painting the flat surfaces of the walls are transformed into three dimensions, filled with the illusion of movement. Verrio's work defies description; it is "other worldly" - his characters overflow with colour and seem so life-like you feel as if you could reach out and touch them.

You then descend into Hell. Verrio's last commission at Burghley was to paint the ceiling over the lofty staircase. The mouth of Hell is depicted as an enormous gaping mouth of a cat with souls of torment writhing within. Death the Grim Reaper, plies his sickle amongst the unfortunates. After the glorious light and joy of the Heaven Room here, by contrast, you are exposed to disquieting darkness and despair.