📍 🇫🇷 Mixed feelings in Beaune
Forget the exorbitant price charged at the entrance of the Hospices de Beaune, if you can.. Forget the high-tech installations, the noisy holograms and the succession of aseptic rooms... Forget all that for the beauty of the “Last Judgment” (1450 CE) by van der Weyden towards the end of the dreadful tour.
French historian Henri Focillon best helps to catch the system offered by Weyden to viewers:
"The central part is composed like a tympanum [the entrance vault of a church]... and it is still a statuary instinct that preserves the feeling of the great form and, in the faces, that sober economy of a model without excess of analytical observation but which obtains the power of expression by simple means."
In other words: we get the colors of the Renaissance, we get improved brushstrokes, more surgical. But the atmosphere remains medieval in spirit: the painting continues to be inspired by the great architectural models and behaviors of the Middle Ages - architecture being THE great artistic form of the Middle Ages in Europe according to Focillon (the equivalent of TV shows nowadays).
Last but not least: observe the weighing of souls in the center, if Hell's depiction does not tempt your unhealthy curiosity a little too much... : pure souls rise as those heavy with sins fall. It is also on this level (height and descent) that you must scrutinize this great picture.
____ Sources ____
>> Henri Focillon, "The art of the West in the Middle Ages", 1938