The Last Judgement Albrecht Durer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Last Judgement is an intricately created woodcut by the german renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer ca. 1509/ 1510. This piece was one in a series of woodcuts that were created to provide illustrations of his book called the Small Passion. To provide context for the book, The Small Passion was designed and published c. 1511, and the plot commences with the fall of man in the garden of Eden and culminating with the judgment of Christ.

The dimensions of the woodcut are 12.8 x 9.7 cm. (or 5 x 3.8 inches.) The Last Judgement can be seen at the British Museum, London, UK. Jesus Christ is the pivotal character in The Last Judgment, featuring large and prominent in the upper centre of the complete artwork. Kneeling at his feet are his mother, the Virgin Mary and one of his youngest and most trusted disciples – St. John. The middle to the lower half of the artwork shows both sinners and believers about to be judged on their decisions and actions during the course of their lifetime. They are singularly either permitted to enter Heaven or are cast to the depths of Hell. The bottom left-hand edge of the scene serves to show the chosen ones being lead on the righteous path to Heaven and eternal salvation.

The bottom right-hand edge of the scene demons and devils are herding and aggressively pushing evil sinners into the entrance of a massive dragon’s mouth – which depicts the entrance to Hell and eternal damnation. Albrecht Dürer was a highly accomplished printmaker, writer and painter of theoretical theories and he helped raise the status of all artists in his native Germany. As a young man he first trained under a local painter and woodcut designer, and he expanded his artistic education and his inspiration evolved by travelling through Belgium, Switzerland and then Italy where he was amazed at the achievements of their leading artists.

After his travels, he settled back at his native home of Nuremberg, where he established a successful print workshop and tutored young artists in the craftmanship of printing and painting. The art of woodcut is a creative technique where an image is carved into a block of wood or similar textured item. The block’s surface is then trundled with an ink roller and printed – resulting in an image where the block has not actually been carved out. Originating in China, woodcut is the oldest printing and printmaking technique that first reached the western world sometime in the 13th century.