Wendel Dietterlin (1550/51–1599) »The Last Judgment«

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Wendel Dietterlin (1550/51–1599)
»The Last Judgment«

1590, pen and black ink, grey and greyish-black wash, heightened in white and gold, 46.8 x 34.4 cm, Inv. No. GVL 200, on loan from Freunde der Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

The »Neues Lusthaus« (new hall of festivities) in Stuttgart, built under the direction of Georg Beer between 1583 and 1593 and demolished in the nineteenth century, was among the most important works of Renaissance architecture in Germany. Comprising a gallery of ancestral portraits, a collection of antiquities and a large banqueting hall, it provided the facilities for a very high standard of princely representation, and splendid court festivities were regularly celebrated on its premises until the Thirty Years’ War.

A view of this building has come down to us in a drawing by Merian. Dietterlin painted the ceiling scenes of the large hall between 1590 and 1593. The »Last Judgment,« described in the »Revelation of St. John the Divine« in the Old Testament, marks the end of the story of salvation, when judgment is passed on humanity. This rendition of the scene is unusually dramatic due to the perspective from below. Strips of clouds structure the celestial realm, narrowing into a spiral and ultimately forming a bright dome over the head of the enthroned Christ the Judge. The trumpets sound, arousing the dead, while angels convey the redeemed heavenward and hurl the damned into an abyss, where they are seized by devils.

This work was a preliminary drawing for a section of the ceiling painting. Following its use for that purpose it was revised as a work in its own right and heightened with gold. [ HMK ]

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