MEMLING, Hans
(b. ca. 1440, Seligenstadt, d. 1494, Bruges)

Last Judgment Triptych (left wing)

1467-71
Oil on wood, 223 x 72 cm
Muzeum Narodowe, Gdansk

On the left, St Peter leads the small band of righteous souls up a crystal staircase to the gates of paradise. Before making their entrance, they are dressed by angels and the attributes of their rank during life are restored: the procession is headed by pope, cardinal and bishop. No racial distinction is made: one black figure appears amongst the righteous and one amongst the damned. The common antithetical symbolism of the new and old dispensations is present here in the shape of a Gothic portal, which conceals two Romanesque towers. Part of this architecture is visible on the extreme right, above the gablet, while red marble columns of the Romanesque type can be glimpsed though the open doorway. Musician angels play on the Gothic balconies. The sculptural scheme of the portal is apocalyptic, with the creation of Eve featuring in the gablet above. The form of the architecture and sculpture thus unites the beginning and end of human history. The construction as a whole represents the New Jerusalem that descends (on the clouds) from heaven (Rev. 3:12).

Several of the male redeemed souls have clearly personalised features, as remarked by several authors, suggesting that acquaintances of the donor had their portraits included. That this is indeed the case is supported by the fact that no such figures appear amongst the damned.




© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.