(b. ca. 1523, Gouda, d. 1584, Brugge)

Last Judgment

Oil on oak panel, 228,5 x 181 cm
Groeninge Museum, Bruges

The second half of the sixteenth century in Bruges was dominated by Pieter Pourbus, a talented master who attained a strictly Italianate classical perfection rare in the Low Countries. In another sense, however, Pourbus was the reincarnation of his famous predecessors, Memling and David. The serenity and innocence of his work could almost persuade the viewer that there had never been a transition to the Renaissance. Karel van Mander tells us (1604) that Pourbus admired these masters very much. Many of his religious works remain in Bruges churches, as a result of which they are less well known.

The Last Judgment painted in 1551 for the Council Chamber of the `Liberty of Bruges' (an administrative district consisting of the countryside around Bruges, but not the town itself) is one of his earliest and most monumental pieces. It owes its inspiration to Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, completed ten years earlier, and is the first attempt in the Low Countries to pay homage to the work of the Italian master on a monumental scale.

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