Rogier van der Weyden 1399/1400 – 1464

The Last Judgment

oil on panel (215 × 560 cm) — 1443-1451 Museum Musée de l'Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune

Rogier van der Weyden biography

This work is linked to Revelation 20:11

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This is the front side of the polyptych Van der Weyden made for a hospital in Beaune. (Reverse side) The huge work is still in the same building.

It was commissioned by Nicolas Rolin, the rich and powerful chancellor to the duke of Burgundy. In 1443 Rolin and his third wife Guigone de Salins founded the Hospices de Beaune, a hospital for the poor. In those days it was thought that in order to recover from illness it was necessary to be of pure spirit. The painting of the Last Judgement that the couple put up in the hospital ward shows what happens to those who are not in a state of spiritual grace.

In the lower part the dead rise from their graves. Their souls are weighed by the archangel Michael. Above the earth hangs heaven, with a golden background.

In the centre panel are Christ and the archangel Michael, who holds a scale. Next to them are Mary (on the left) and John the Baptist (right).

On the second row are the twelve apostles. Behind them are a pope, a king, a monk, and to the right three women.

The outer panels show the final destinations: paradise and hell.

The angels in the upper side panels hold symbols from Christ's Passion: the cross, the crown of thorns, the stick with the spunge with vinager, the lance that was used to prick into his side, and the pillar against which he was flagellated.

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