PROVOST, Jan
(b. ca. 1465, Mons, d. 1529, Bruges)

Last Jjudgment

1525
Oil on oak panel, 145 x 169 cm
Groeninge Museum, Bruges

If Isenbrant and Benson were not always very original, the same cannot be said of Jan Provost (1465-1529) or Lanceloot Blondeel (1498-1561). Both painters introduced their own, new spirit to their respective generations in Bruges. Rather than basing their art on a few poorly understood and arbitrarily selected Italian features, they opted for a more ingenious thematic and decorative approach and for their own special modernity. They were complex personalities, who also worked as cartographers, engineers and architects, making them early exponents of the universal artistry that typified the age of Humanism.

The Last Jjudgment, the only painting whose attribution to Provost is confirmed by documentary evidence, comes from the Town Hall for which it was painted in 1525. Its carved frame, still partly original and possibly designed by Blondeel, is an example of the ingenious ornamentation that flourished around these Bruges artists. The iconography of the jjudgment scenes differs significantly from what was traditional at the time. The symbolic relationship between Jesus and Mary, the carrying of the blessed across the water and the hellish pageant of friars and nuns, reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, are expressive of a lively imagination.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 10 minutes):
Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem, Dies irae (excerpt)