The Last Judgment

Judgment day
Holbein Proofs, Judgment Day
Basel's dance of death, the ossuary.
Basel's dance of death, ossuary

T he dance ends with The Last Judgment, where Jesus is going to separate the sheep from the goats. And as we all know, this is going to happen very soon. In the middle of the picture is the Universe surrounded by the Zodiac. The drawing is reminiscent of the model hanging over the head of the astrologer. Jesus is sitting on top of a rainbow, displaying his holy wounds. The humans are naked — all symbols of earthly authority are gone.

Holbein was the first to let the dance of death end with the Resurrection and the Last Judgment. Paradoxically enough, he seems to have been inspired by the beginning of Basel's dance of death — i.e. the same picture that inspired Holbein to the introduction of his dance of death. In the picture to the left — over the gate — is a painting of Jesus sitting on a rainbow as a judge — with the saved ones to the left and the lost in Hell to the right.

Holbein, Initial letter Z, The Last Judgment One thing that distinguishes Holbein's picture from the one in Basel's dance of death is that Holbein doesn't portray the lost souls in the Lake of Fire. In Holbein's picture, Jesus is the happy end to the tragic dance of death, that ended with Death leaving the hourglass at the child. Another difference between Holbein's picture and many other contemporary paintings of The Last Judgment is the absence of Mary and John. As a good Protestant, Holbein has no need for intercessors..

The picture of The Last Judgment looks much like the one that was used in Holbein's dance of death alphabet (picture to the right), and the same two Bible quotes are used.

Variations: Scharffenberg makes a very liberal interpretation, where he shows the damned being consumed by eternal flames.

Various Artists

Holbein Proofs (1526)
Holbein Proofs 1526: Judgment Day
Holbein (1538)
Holbein 1538: Judgment Day
Vogtherr (1544)
Vogtherr 1544: Judgment Day
Birckmann (1555)
Birckmann 1555: Judgment Day
Wagner (1557)
Wagner 1557: Judgment Day
Scharffenberg (1576)
Scharffenberg 1576: Judgment Day
Straub (1581)
Straub 1581: Judgment Day
Chytraeus (1590)
Chytraeus 1590: Judgment Day
Kieser (1617)
Kieser 1617: Judgment Day
Meyer (1650)
Meyer 1650: Judgment
Valvasor (1682)
Valvasor 1682: Judgment Day
Erbaulicher Sterb-Spiegel (1704)
Erbaulicher Sterb-Spiegel 1704: Judgment
Bewick (1789)
Bewick 1789: Judgment Day
Anderson (1810)
Anderson 1810: Judgment Day
'Mr. Bewick' (1825)
'Mr. Bewick' 1825: Judgment Day
Bechstein (1831)
Bechstein 1831: Judgment Day
Schlotthauer (1832)
Schlotthauer 1832: Judgment Day
Douce (1833)
Douce 1833: Judgment Day
Curmer (1858)
Curmer 1858: Judgment Day