ABSTRACT

Hieronymus Bosch's Vienna The Last Judgment is notable not only for his characteristic monsters; it also alters the “choice” narrative typical of Last Judgments. Ordinarily, the action of a Last Judgment triptych moves from the center of the image outward, with Christ in Judgment at the center and Heaven and Hell on either side. Yet the Vienna triptych presents a lopsided focus on the inevitability of Hell—leaving the viewer entangled with the monstrous, lascivious, violent, and immoral. Medieval and early modern Christian European audiences would have interpreted Bosch's The Last Judgment as part of an existing cultural framework that defined humanity and Christian morality against monstrosity as a vehicle for sinful behavior. Using theoretical models that deal with affect, landscape, and medieval meditation strategies, this paper will explore possible visual passages through Bosch's The Last Judgment and the resulting messages the painting provides about sin, salvation, humanity, and monstrosity.

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