Last Judgment (detail)1130-45
Cathedral of Saint-Lazare, Autun
The picture shows the Weighing of Souls, a detail from the Last Judgment tympanum of Saint-Lazare, Autun. The Saint Lazare tympanum is from the hand of the mysterious "Gislebertus," about whom we know nothing other than his signature on the work. The presentation of the Last Judgment with its accompanying themes is a little confused, but the detail of the Weighing of the Souls displays features characteristic of the Autun style: figures exaggeratedly elongated, the realism of gesture and expression overstated, a predominantly picturesque mood, and the clear influence of mystery plays. The execution is somewhat dry, subordinated as it is to both the spirit of invention and the urge to fill all available space. The result, however, is an extraordinary and truly expressionistic work of art. The devils casting the terrorized sinners into hell have a power rarely achieved.
In one of the most graphic scenes in Romanesque sculpture, the Weighing of the Souls is taking place between the Archangel Michael and the Devil, and behind them stands Luxuria with snakes at her breasts. Behind Michael's back, facing Christ, is the twelfth apostle, who is opening the Book of Life that is being weighed for the Judge.