Joos van Cleve (Netherlandish, ca. 1485–1540/41)
Oil on wood
48 3/4 x 34 in. (123.8 x 86.4 cm)
Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Graham F. Blandy, 1940 (40.174.1)
In this ambitious depiction of the Last Judgment, the upper and lower zones of the composition are linked by two angels with fantastic multicolored wings and swirling garments who blow lily-shaped trumpets. Christ appears at the moment of judgment in a burst of light and color, surrounded by apostles and a host of winged putti, interspersed with folds of voluminous clouds. The effect of this brilliant radiance and variegated color is in sharp contrast to the subdued tones and relative monochrome in the area reserved for the mass of humanity, awaiting judgment below. That the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptisttraditional intercessors between the heavenly and earthly realmdo not appear indicates that Christ judges alone. This change in the hierarchical arrangement of the scene may signify that the panel was made for a Protestant-leaning patron. The figure of Christ seems to be inspired by the ancient sculptural group of the Laocoön, and the poses of some of the nudes reflect the study of Italian prints after Raphael's designs. This Italianate character, together with the soft figure types and lively, somewhat dissonant color scheme, are some of the elements that have led to the attribution of this work to Joos van Cleve. In this ambitious representation of the Last Judgment, a subject not otherwise treated by Joos, the artist combined Italianate models with a distinctly Northern rendition of the Mannerist style.