El Greco. Pentecost, 1600. Oil on canvas. Prado Museum, Madrid.

Seminars, Schools and Summer Series

Annunciation to Last Judgement: Themes and Variations in Christian Art – 6. Ascension, Pentecost and Last Judgement

  • Friday 24 September 2021
  • Sarah Fell Room, Friends House, 173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
  • Lecturer: Clare Ford-Wille

During the summer of 2021 we are offering a series of linked but separate study days on images from Christian Art. Each day can be booked individually.

The Summer Series will examine the main themes and many ways in which they were interpreted by artists and sculptors from the fourth to nineteenth centuries. We will consider the ways in which artists and their patrons interpreted the texts, not only of the Bible, but also the Revelations of St. Bridget and the fascinating commentaries in The Golden Legend.

Programme for Day 6

 Ascension, Pentecost and Last Judgement

The subject of The Last Judgement was also one of the most popular subjects for large-scale presentation, particularly in sculpture and fresco in the later Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Sometimes an entire chapel is given over to the subject as in Signorelli’s famous chapel in Orvieto Cathedral, which so fascinated Freud. The subject was more often than not represented across the facades of twelfth-century churches in England and France, particularly those on the pilgrimage routes. After the Renaissance during the Counter Reformation the subject is less frequently seen and we shall consider how its representation changes during the later period.

The Ascension and Pentecost, although equally important, were narrative scenes and did not have the moral warnings and forebodings of Last Judgement promises of Hell or Paradise;  Christians were reminded to repent or confess their sins in order to avoid Hell or to achieve Paradise eventually. Nonetheless the varied and diverse ways in which artists depict the subjects of Ascension and Pentecost can be fascinating and, at times, amusing.


  1. The Ascension in all its variations
  2. Pentecost and the message of the Descent of the Holy Spirit
  3. The Last Judgement up to 1450
  4. The Last Judgement from 1450 onwards


Clare Ford-Wille is an independent art historian, well known to members for her courses at Birkbeck and Morley College as well as a lecturer at the National Gallery, the V&A and The Arts Society groups in Britain and Europe. She has led many tours abroad. Clare is a Vice President of The London Art History Society.

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