Diptych of the Last Judgment and the Crucifixion, Jan Van Eyck

Diptych of the Last Judgment and the Crucifixion, Jan Van Eyck
Diptych of the Last Judgment and the Crucifixion, Jan Van Eyck

The diptych of The Crucifixion and The Last Judgment is one of the most outstanding works of Jan Van Eyck's artistic production, in it the artist shows a careful composition with great detail and a realism that is only possible thanks to to the recovery of the oil technique. The use of oil in painting was not unknown and yet it was not until the northern European painters recovered it that this technique was imposed in the world of painting; By using oil, artists can better recreate the tactile qualities of canvas and introduce greater detail and realism into compositions. Originally, both panels must have been painted in oil on panel, but today they are in oil, since they were moved.


In the panel of The Crucifixion we can see how the artist has divided the composition into three arts horizontally. In the first of them we find, in a foreground close to the viewer, the group starring the Virgin Mary who, because of the pain caused by what happened to her only Son, collapses without strength while being rescued by Saint John. On her part, María Magdalena directs her gaze towards the condemned man while two other women close the composition, apparently these figures have been identified with the sibyls, although some authors disagree with this interpretation.

In the central plane, placing the action on the summit of Mount Golgotha, the mount of the damned just outside Jerusalem, we find Jesus crucified while being speared on the side. His head tilts without force, a position that will also be chosen for other famous crucifixions such as that of Velázquez. Flanking Jesus we find the crosses of the good and the bad thief as well as a crowd that gathers to witness the scene. Among the spectators we find some of the men who condemned him as the High Priest or Pilate.

The upper third has been occupied by the crosses of the damned, which by having lengthened them too much detracts from the naturalism of the composition. However, between the crosses we can find one of the most amazing landscapes of Flemish painting, in which a panoramic view of the city of Jerusalem has been recreated.

For its part, the panel corresponding to the Last Judgment follows the same compositional scheme as its companion, with a division of three superimposed planes, hell, heaven and purgatory have been represented from top to bottom. In the sky area we find a representation of a Pantocrator, Jesus Christ in majesty and teaching the passion yagas appears flanked by a court of saved characters.


In the intermediate level, the Earth is represented as a purgatory representing multiple punishments; this level is guarded by the figure of the archangel Gabriel who watches overthe damned do not escape from hell while in the underworld the sinners burn in flames. These are sheltered by the elongated arms of a large skeleton that represents death.

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