10 May 2012

Hans Memling and his Last Judgment

I started this post last September in Gdansk and then I forgot about it. It ended as a draft. However I thought that you should know about that beautiful medieval altar triptych by Hans Memling which can be admired in a museum in Gdansk.

 Here is the old post, with some adjustments.
We are in Gdansk at the moment. Yesterday we went to the National Museum of Art in Gdansk to see the Last Judgment by Hans Memling. I couldn't take my eyes off this beautiful, fresh and colourful piece of fine art. It is a triptych, an altar. It is a very civilized image of heaven, purgatory and hell. The central panel shows Jesus sitting in Judgment on the world, while St Michael the Archangel is weighing souls and sending the damned to the Hell.
The triptych has an interesting past. It was commissioned by Angelo Tani, an agent of the Medici in Bruges. It was originally designed for the Florentine Church of Badia of Fiesole. During shipment to Italy the galleon San Matteo was captured by a privateer
(colloquialism for pirate), Paul Beneke from Gdansk in Poland (during the division of spoils) . The pirate ship’s owners donated the triptych to the St. Mary Church in Gdansk. A lengthy lawsuit against the Hanseatic League demanded its return to Italy, but without success. In the time of Napoleon’s supremacy the triptych was stolen again and went to the Louvre as spoils of war. After Napoleon was defeated it was removed to Berlin. In 1817 returned to Gdansk again. At the end of the Second World War Memling’s work was moved again, this time to the Reich (Germany), but not for long. The Red Army captured it and the triptych went to Leningrad to become a showpiece in the Hermitage. After Stalin’s death the Last Judgment returned to Gdansk. The original altar piece is now in the National Museum of Art. In St. Mary’s Church you can admire a copy.
So here we are between Hell , Purgatory and Heaven. The GREAT TRIO of Catholic dogmas.
Nota bene I don't believe in H.P.H.  I do believe that hell, purgatory and heaven is here and now. And H.P.H. are how you live your life.  
The whole triptych

St Michael the Archangel

A short note about Hans Memling. He was born in Hessen (Germany today) , went to Brussels and spent some time in the atelier of Rogier van der Weyden (who belongs to the school of Flemish primitives). Around 1465 he went to Bruges. From the 1460s until the end of his life he became one of the leading artists, painting both portraits and several large religious works, continuing the style he learned in his youth from his master. He worked in the tradition and style of the Flemish primitives.

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