After Pieter I Bruegel the Elder (Breda?, 1525/1530 – Brussels, 1569)
Engraved by Pieter van der Heyden (Antwerp, circa 1530 – 1575)
The Last Judgement

Burin engraving on paper
22.5 x 29.4 cm


Acquisition 2008, with a contribution from the Museums Regional Acquisition Fund

Major works | Indignant Subjects

A vision of Hell

Pieter van der Heyden was born circa 1530 in Antwerp as the son of Jan van der Heyden, and qualified as a master craftsman in 1557. He was an engraver who worked mostly for Hieronymus Cock (1510-1570), an engravings publisher in Antwerp and founder of the “Les Quatre Vents” company. Cock used to choose the subjects to be portrayed in line with the popular themes and fashions of the day. He would then call on a painter – like Pieter Bruegel for example, with whom he would work on countless occasions – to do the drawing on the chosen theme. This drawing was then passed on to an engraver – in this instance Pieter van der Heyden – who had to engrave the drawing on a copper plate using a burin or etching. Once the copper plate was completed, the printer would print the engravings, which would finally go back to the publisher who took charge of their sale.

Pieter van der Heyden was one of Pieter Bruegel’s appointed engravers.

The Last Judgement reflects the models of 15th century Flemish painting – and even of mediaeval imagery. The very few hybrid figures confined in the foreground is a feature of this engraving at odds with others handling the same theme, such as The Descent of Christ in Limbo, where they are more dominant. Hell and horror are given material form by the monster with the gaping mouth – a recurring character in Brueghel’s work.