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

Last Judgment Triptych (central)

1467-71
Oil on wood, 221 x 160 cm
Muzeum Narodowe, Gdansk

Christ appears in evangelical guise seated on a rainbow, his feet resting on a gleaming golden globe, surrounded by the twelve apostles and the intercessors Mary and John the Baptist. They are all pictured on a cloud that continues left to the gates of paradise and right to the mouth of hell. The traditional angels with the instruments of the Passion hover in pairs above this divine assembly, while the four angels blowing their apocalyptic trumpets float somewhat randomly above the earth, one of them even appearing high up in the clouds of the right wing. The lily of mercy and the red-hot sword of justice on either side of Christ's head correspond symbolically with the upward gesture of blessing made by his right hand, and the downward one by his left.

The rainbow separates the two worlds and their different orders; the ethereal golden space of God's Kingdom appears at the top, while the earth, represented as a wide plain bordered in the distance by a chain of mountains, is shown at the bottom. This will be the valley of Josaphat, which, according to the apocryphal authors (Honorius of Autun, James of Voragine) would be the site of the Last Judgment. The time of day is fixed by the dark blue-green night sky.

The figure of St Michael stands on the earth directly below Christ, on the dividing line between the green soil to the left and the barren brown plain to the right. Holding the scales in his right hand, he uses the crosier in his left to prick the flesh of the damned soul, as if to prod him towards the mouth of hell.




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