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Gallery Text

Provoost’s painting depicts Judgment Day, with Christ looming over the earth, his feet resting on an iridescent orb. Dark gray clouds overlap the gilded sky. The sword and the lily that flank Christ’s head, and his powerful gaze directed outward at the viewer, signify his imminent division of the blessed from the damned. Flying between heaven and earth, four angels sound long curved trumpets to the souls below, who await judgment.

The apocalyptic landscape is eerily barren, devoid of any vegetation or architecture and populated only by figures scantily draped in white cloths. Each seems to occupy a discrete psychic space; some pray, while others, set along the horizon beneath the pale sky, seem unaware of the cosmic event above. Although the subject of this painting suggests that it could have hung in a religious institution, images of the Last Judgment were also frequently displayed in city halls and courthouses, as a means of validating secular institutions’ claims to divine authority.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Jan Provoost, Netherlandish (c. 1465 - 1529)
The Last Judgment
Work Type
c. 1505
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions
Oil and gold on oak panel, in original frame
108.5 x 92 cm (42 11/16 x 36 1/4 in.)
frame: 127.5 x 114 x 5.4 cm (50 3/16 x 44 7/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Possibly from the former Predikheren (Dominican) Church at Bruges, which was destroyed during the Thirty Years War. Mr. van Speybrouck, Bruges.
Viscount Léon Ruffo Bonneval de la Fare, Brussels, [his sale in Bruges, June 26 1893, lot 143, unsold], [his sale in Brussels, May 23 1900, lot 6, as Memlinc, withdrawn by the owner], by inheritance; to De Winter family. Sold, to Baron Maleingreau d'Hembise, 1960. [Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., 1982, unsold]. [Christie's, New York, 1994], sold; to Vermeer Associates Limited, sold; to Harvard Art Museum, 1997.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Anonymous Gift and the Kate, Maurice R. and Melvin R. Seiden Special Purchase Fund in honor of Philip A. and Lynn Straus
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Tableaux anciens des écoles flamande, allemande, & Italienne principalement des XVe, XVIe etXVIIe siècles, auct. cat. (Bruges, Belgium, June 26, 1893), lot 143

Tableaux anciens, auct. cat., Galerie Fiévez (Brussels, Belgium, May 23, 1900), no. 6

George Hulin de Loo, "Geschiedenis der Kunst in de Nederlanden (Belgie en Holland) . . .", Kunst en Leven (1902), vol. I, p. 19, no. 7

George Hulin de Loo, Exposition de tableaux flamands des XIVe, XVe, XVIe siecles, exh. cat., A. Siffer (Ghent, Belgium, 1902), no. 7

Exposition des Primitifs flamands et d'Art ancien, exh. cat., P. Weissenbruch (Brussels, Belgium, 1902), pp. 71-2, no. 169

J.M.W.H. Weale, "Early Painters of the Netherlands as illustrated by Bruges exhibition of 1902", The Burlington Magazine (1903), vol. II, p. 332

Max J. Friedlander, von Eyck bis Brueghel, Studien zur Geschichte der niederlandische Malerei, Julius Bard (Berlin, Germany, 1916), p. 120

Max J. Friedlander, Die altniederlandische Malerei, Paul Cassirer Gallery (Berlin, Germany, 1924 - 1937), vol. IX, p. 78, no. 159

R.A. Parmentier, [Unidentified article], Revue Belge d'Archeologie et d'Histoire de l'Art (1944), vol. XIV, pp. 14-16

Charles-Quint et son temps, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Gand (Ghent, Belgium, 1955), p. 129, no. 107

Max J. Friedlander, Lucas van Leyden and other Dutch masters of his time, A.W. Sijthoff (Leyden, 1973), pp. 87, 114, no 159

N. Reynauld, "Une Allegorie Sacree de Jan Provost", Revue du Louvre et des musées de France (1975), vol. 25, pp. 7-16

Important Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., Sotheby's (London, England, June 23, 1982), no. 32, repr.

Important and Fine Old Master Paintings, auct. cat., Christie's, New York (New York, NY, January 12, 1994), cat. no. 77, pp. 112-113, repr. in color p. 113

Ron Spronk, "An Early Sixteenth Century 'Last Judgment' by Jan Provoost", Le Dessin sous-jacent et la Technologie dans la Peinture, Colloque XI, Sept 1995, ed. Roger van Schout, College Erasme (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1997)

Ron Spronk, "Tracing the Making of Jan Provoost's 'Last Judgement' through Technical Examinations and Digital Imaging", Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit Institute of Arts Founders Society (Detroit, MI, 1998), vol. 72, no. 1/2, repr. in b/w fig. 2, p. 68

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), pp. 42-43, repr. p. 42

Peter Klein, "Dendrochronological Analyses of Netherlandish Paintings", Recent Developments in the Technical Examination of Early Netherlandish Painting, ed. Molly Faries, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge MA, 2003), pp. 65-81, p. 80, in table 5

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 68, repr.

Exhibition History

Investigating the Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/1996 - 05/01/2009

32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

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