One of the most famous and most remarkable works of art form the collection of Museum De Lakenhal is the vast altar piece of the Laatste Oordeel (Last Judgment), painted by Lucas van Leyden in ca. 1526-27 as a memorial table for Claes Dircsz. van Swieten, a wealthy merchand and alderman of Leiden, who died in 1525. The scene depicts the day of the Last Judgment as described in the Apocalyps, when the deceased rise from their graves to reach their destiny in either heaven or hell. They will be carried along gently by sweet angels or herded into the jaws of hell by diabolical creatures. Quite early, Lucas van Leyden was considered to be a prodigy throughout Europe because of his sublime etchings and drawings. More than anybody else, he added narrative qualities to both Biblical and profane subject matter. Lucas van Leyden's favourite themes include charity, looseness, immorality, and female guiles.

Cornelis Engebrechtsz. (Leiden approx. 1462 - ditto 1527)

Engebrechtsz. was the first significant painter from the city of Leiden. Anything we know about his life was printed in the Schilder-boeck (Painter's Book, 1604) of artist's biographer Karel van Mander. Besides external pupils, Cornelis’ three sons were also trained in the studio. Together, they produced religious art for the monasteries, convents and churches in and around the city of Leiden.

Middle Ages to Renaissance

Works by Engebrechtsz. are still under the influence of the Gotiek style of the Middle Ages, developing gradually into the direction of mannerism which was so popular in Antwerp, but Lucas van Leyden indulges in the perfect depiction of the human body, a popular challenge among artists in the early renaissance era.

Lucas van Leyen, Last Judgment (detail), 1526-27
Lucas van Leyen, Last Judgment (detail), 1526-27 Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden


Lucas van Leyden was inspired by prints of the paintings of the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. Lucas had never seen Raphael's works, but he studied them through prints by Marcantonio Raimondi, a pupil from Raphael's studio. Lucas van Leyden was not just valued by contemporary art connoisseurs and artists, but also by art biographers such as Giorgio Vasari (Arezzo, 30 July 1511 - Florence, 27 June 1574) and Karel van Mander (Meulebeke, May 1548 – Amsterdam, 11 September 1606), who wrote about him in their books.


In the image below, mind the monogram Lucas van Leyden uses to sign his works.

Lucas van Leyden, Portret of unknown man (detail), 1521.
Lucas van Leyden, Portret of unknown man (detail), 1521. Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden


Lucas van Leyden met the German artist Albrecht Dürer in Antwerp in 1521. The two artists exchanged a large number of imprints and Dürer drew a portrait of Lucas van Leyden on the spot. Influenced by Dürer, Lucas van Leyden introduced portraits as a new genre in the Northern Netherlands.


Lucas van Leyden died young; he fell victim to tuberculosis at the age of 39. His work had a large impact on later artists. Rembrandt for one, owned his complete series of prints. Similar to Lucas van Leyden, he elected both ordinary man and Biblical themes as subject matter.


In 2011, Museum De Lakenhal organised the exhibition 'Lucas van Leyden and the Renaissance'. For the first time ever, his work was shown in the context of artists such as the German Albrecht Dürer, Joachim Patinir from Flanders, the Italian graphic artist Marcantonio Raimondi and Leiden's painters Aertgen van Leyden and Cornelis Engebrechtsz. For the very first time, the exhibition featured Leiden's triptych with the Laatste Oordeel (Last Judgment) together with the Dans om het gouden kalf (The Dance around the Golden Calf; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) en Christus geneest de blinde van Jericho (Healing of Blind Man of Jericho; Hermitage, Saint Petersburg).

Queen Beatrix at the opening of the exhibition.
Queen Beatrix at the opening of the exhibition. Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden 2011. Foto: Marc de Haan


The Laatste Oordeel (Last Judgment) from the collection of Museum De Lakenhal never left Leiden, apart from two short periods: during World War II, when it was deposited in the province of Limburg and in 1958, when it was shown in the Rijkmuseum. During the Restoration and Extension of the museum, in between 2016 and 2018, the triptych will move temporarily to the Hall of Fame of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, as part of the cooperation agreement that was clinched by the directors of Museum De Lakenhal and the Rijksmuseum on 27 February 2014.

Directors Meta Knol and Wim Pijbes after signing the convenant.
Directors Meta Knol and Wim Pijbes after signing the convenant. 27 February 2014, Museum De Lakenhal

We have a match at content level. This makes scale less important. Museum De Lakenhal is simply the cheeky little sister of the Rijksmuseum!

Meta Knol, director Museum De Lakenhal