This majestic scene is divided into heavenly and earthly zones, which are linked by two hovering angels blowing trumpets. Christ appears at the moment of judgment in a burst of light and color, surrounded by clouds and putti and flanked by the apostles. He blesses the saved, shown at lower left, while Saint Michael shepherds the damned into hell burning in the distance at right.
The nudes in the foreground reflect the artist’s study of prints after Raphael's designs, and the figure of Christ seems to be inspired by the famous ancient sculpture of the Laocoön.
?monastery, near Douai (from about 1764, as by Jean Bellegambe); [Louis Delehaye, Antwerp, until 1909, as by Van Orley or Bellegambe; sold for Fr 50,000 to Blandy]; Graham F. Blandy, New York (from 1909); Mrs. Graham F. Blandy, New York (until d. 1930; her estate, 1930–40)
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 4–November 23, 1947, unnumbered cat.
Iowa City. State University of Iowa, School of Fine Arts. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 9–March 31, 1948, unnumbered cat.
Bloomington. Indiana University. "30 Masterpieces: An Exhibition of Paintings from the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–May 16, 1948, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 98.
Max Rooses. Letter to Graham Farber Blandy. July 24, 1909, as by Bernart van Orley, about 1520; observes similarities with his Last Judgment in Antwerp [Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten]; notes that the figure of Christ reminds him of the figures of Raphael and that the foreground figures resemble academic studies.
Margaretta M. Salinger. "Two New Flemish Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 36 (May 1941), pp. 109–11, ill., as by Joos van Cleve, produced between 1520–30; hypothesizes that our painting might originally have had wings; observes that the figure of Christ shows a striking resemblance to Joos's Salvator Mundi in the Louvre, Paris; notes that the soft modeling of the figures implies familiarity with Italian art, particularly that of Raphael and Leonardo; considers the mild quality of the scene and the rich draperies, all blown to the left, characteristically Renaissance in manner.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 137–38, ill., note that the painting follows the composition of German and Netherlandish pictures of this subject and that the mild figure of Christ harks back to Memling; observe that paintings of the Last Judgment were intended to decorate the courtrooms of town halls because of their moralistic implications; comment on the painting's poor state of preservation and its extensive restoration.
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, p. 93.
Charles D. Cuttler. Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel. New York, 1968, p. 434, ill., dates it 1520–25 and comments on its classicizing features: the putti, the figure types and the figure of Christ; implies the influence of Raphael's tapestry cartoons which arrived in Brussels in 1517.
Craig Harbison. The Last Judgment in Sixteenth Century Northern Europe. A Study of the Relation Between Art and the Reformation. PhD diss., Princeton University. New York, 1976, pp. 146–47, 276, no. 55, mentions it as an example of the limitation of heavenly intercessors and the focus on Christ that occured at times in Catholic works from the early 16th century.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Underdrawings in Paintings by Joos van Cleve at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Le dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Ed. Roger van Schoute and Dominique Hollanders-Favart. Colloque 4, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982, p. 161, notes that the underdrawing in this painting is imperceptable due to substantial, very old restorations.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "A Meeting of Sacred and Secular Worlds." From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 37, 58, 88, 321, 325, 366–68, no. 98, ill. (color), dates it about 1520–25; notes that the closest parallel to our composition is seen in Bernaert van Orley's altarpiece of the Last Judgment and the Seven Acts of Mercy of 1525 (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp); observes that the composition of the earthly and heavenly realms arranged in two grand semicircles is modeled on Raphael's Disputa for the Stanza della Segnatura (Vatican); believes the fluently composed Italianate nudes in the foreground were assimilated from drawings and prints after works by Raphael and his followers, most likely from Raphael's cartoons for a series of tapestries portraying the Acts of the Apostles, in Brussels by 1516; suggests that the omission of the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist as traditional intercessors is a significant iconographical change which may signify a Protestant interpretation; notes that the figures of the saved and the damned have been heavily restored.
John Oliver Hand. Joos van Cleve: The Complete Paintings. New Haven, 2004, p. 189, no. 113, fig. 161, dates it about 1525–30 and notes that the large number of male and female nudes would have been a challenge for Joos; observes that this picture "does not consistently remind one of Joos: the face of Saint Michael, for example, seems quite weak and divorced from his style (or else is heavily restored). On the other hand, one can see the presence of Joos's workshop in the face of Christ, and the pose and facial features of the man in the left foreground . . .".