Art of the Apocalypse



Gothic Art Map
Revelations (Art of the Apocalypse)
    Visions of the World to Come    
    Angels of the Apocalypse    
    The Four Horsemen and the Seven Seals    
    The Beasts, Antichrist, and the Women    
    Judgment Day    
    The Devil and the Damned    
    A New Heaven and a New Earth    
    Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)



And J saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books,
according to their works.

Revelation 20:12



eternal bliss for the saved, eternal damnation for sinners. Resurrection and the Last Judgment are said to come at the end of time, after the thousand years of  Christ's earthly rule and after the final battle with the devil during his brief postmillennium escape from the abyss. But Revelation tells of an earlier resurrection as well, when the saints who suffered martyrdom for their faith arise from the dead to rule with Christ after his second coming.
 Fear of an inescapable Last Judgment for all was a powerful force in regulating the behavior of believers. Wanting to provide omnipresent reminders of what was to come, the church commissioned scenes of Judgment Day in many different forms, including altar-pieces, stained glass, frescoes, manuscripts, and sculpture. A Last Judgment was traditionally positioned over the western entrance to a church—the west being associated with the conclusion of the day and hence with the end of life and of time.
The Day of Judgment begins with the physical resurrection of all those who have ever lived. The visual possibilities of this supernatural yet eminently physical process have had an understandably strong appeal for artists, from early illuminators to a provincial Vietnamese painter to the twentieth-century British artist Stanley Spencer, who foresaw the process taking place in his own village churchyard.

 Luca Signorelli's Last Judgment cycle at Orvieto Cathedral lavishes particular care on the representation of resurrection. The studied naturalism of his awakening figures reflects the skills oi perspective and anatomy being painstakingly mastered in the Renaissance.


Luca Signorelli
The Last Judgment
Resurrection of the Flesh
Fresco, Orvieto


Luca Signorelli
The Last Judgment
The Damned
Fresco, Orvieto




In depictions of the Last Judgment, Christ is usually portrayed as judge at the top of the picture, seated on either a throne or the arc of a rainbow (though only rarely the emerald rainbow described in Revelation). He often is flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, who are said to plead for mercy on behalf of those being judged. The archangel Michael—who earlier in Revelation vanquished the devil in cosmic battle—now solemnly weighs souls to determine their fitness for heaven. Satan usually lurks nearby as his demons try to tip the scales in hell's favor; particularly mischievous examples can be seen below.


The Last Judgment
Arena Chapel, Padua, Italy


Stefan Lochner
The Last Judgment
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne


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