Last Judgment


This broadside of the Last Judgment measures 10" × 13 1/4". It is based on one of my ink drawings on paper. A scan of my drawing, slightly enlarged and modified, was used to create the plate for letterpress printing.

The iconography of the Last Judgment has long fascinated me; this is the third large depiction of it that I have made. Many different late medieval paintings and prints informed its composition; the influence of Rogier van der Weyden is especially obvious.

Christ returns on the clouds, seated on a rainbow and surrounded by a mandorla. His feet rest on an orb (with Jerusalem at its exact center), signifying His dominion over the entire world. He displays His five wounds, and the instruments of His passion appear beside Him. A lily at His right hand represents mercy and a sword at His left hand represents justice. Trumpeting angels call the dead to rise from their tombs. The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist kneel to offer intercessory prayer on behalf of those called to judgment.

Below them, St. Michael the Archangel weighs in a balance the good and evil of each man and woman. An angel waits to usher the elect into the doors of paradise, and a demon with a meathook waits to pull the damned into a gaping hellmouth.

I framed the entire scene of the Last Judgment in a septfoil; the number seven signifies completion and appears repeatedly in the Apocalypse of St. John. Surrounding this is a decorative border of fig branches, a reference to Matthew 24.32-33:
And from the fig-tree learn a parable: when the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors.
Among the fig branches appear the words dies ire, the beginning of Thomas of Celano’s famous sequence (as it was spelled in late medieval Latin):
Dies ire, dies illa,
Solvet seclum in favilla,
Teste David cum Sibylla!
The letters are composed of folded ribbons. Banderole letters such as these were used for display capitals in the late Middle Ages. I actually created models for the letters out of folded paper, applying methods I learned from my hobby of origami.

David and the Eritrean Sibyl, mentioned in the sequence, appear in the bottom corners of the drawing, as two great prophets (one to the Jews, one to the Gentiles) of doomsday.


Approximately 200 broadsides were made in 2014 and issued in an open edition. They were printed on a Heidelberg cylinder press at Rohner Letterpress (Chicago, IL). Graphic Chemical & Ink (Villa Park, IL) supplied a traditional printing ink made from linseed oil & furnace black. The paper was handmade from cotton rag pulp at Twinrocker Handmade Paper (Brookston, IN). It is a laid paper, which means that it has a slight ribbed texture, from the wires in the papermaking mould. The bottom and left edges are deckle.

More information here.


Dean Johnson said...

This is so ornate and beautiful! The level of craft that went into it is amazing....

Tomas de Zarate said...