Amy Hill’s Contemporary Take on the Seven Deadly Sins

by Margot BuermannPosted on

Amy Hill – “Apathy”

New York-based artist Amy Hill puts her contemporary spin on the work of 15th century painter Hans Memling in her series of oil paintings titled Seven Deadly Sins. Hill is known for adapting the styles of early Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting and placing historical subjects within modern day settings. On her website, the artist writes, “I chose these eras because of my stylistic kinship with their artists, which allows me to carry on a kind of dialogue with them… I have chosen portraiture as it is a genre that runs through art history and allows me through poses, gestures and fashion detail to make social, psychological and anthropological statements about my subjects.”

Hans Memling – “Triptych of Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation”

Seven Deadly Sins is modeled after a triptych by Memling titled “Earthly Vanity and Divine Salvation”. The work depicts an erotic nude staring at her reflection in a handheld mirror, flanked by images of Death and Hell. The painting references the earthly sins of vanity and lust and serves to remind its audience of the brevity of human life. While Hill has done away with the religious tone of Memling’s original, she does repurpose the central figure, as well as the griffon – a dog associated with paintings of physical love – and courting greyhounds, whose appearance and demeanor change depending on the sin portrayed.


In Hill’s paintings, Memling’s sinner is transformed into a modern woman, dressed in updated fashion including a band tee and crocs, and her offenses are not unfamiliar to her new, contemporary audience. In “Apathy”, the woman admires her manicure, unmoved by the calamity that unfolds behind her, such as a house fire, plane crash and warring soldiers. In “Syntheticity”, she holds a can of energy drink, her back turned from a dismal slew of factories and piled up cars, the objects of mass consumption and industrialization. Even the hounds have been replaced with a pair of plastic lawn flamingos, the griffon rendered as a stoic imitation.



“Distraction” and “Workaholism” are other sins included in the series, and help to craft a social commentary on the faults of contemporary society.




Amy Hill grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After studying commercial art at Carnegie Mellon University, she relocated to New York City and worked as an illustrator for Rolling Stone, The New York Times and Penguin Books. Since her solo debut in the East Village in 1989, she has continued to show her work in national and international venues.

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