The format of this altarpiece is clearly more complex than the famous Last Judgement altarpiece by Michelangelo, featuring multiple hinged panels with paintings on both sides to allow to when the artwork is opened and closed. This clearly has the final installation in mind, where as Michelangelo's concentrated purely on a single artwork which dominated a whole wall in the Sistine Chapel.

External wings in formats such as these are always intended as supporting content to the main central panel and here we see them with depictions of the donors for this overall piece. Scenes from The Last Judgement then dominate the main panels, and from that we learn the major theme of the piece.

The artwork was paid for by Nicolas Rolin, who was the Chancellor of the Duchy of Burgundy and also his wife Guigone de Salins. It was planned to be installed at the Hospices de Beaune immediately upon completion. These two donors are well known to the art world for their involvement in other projects, with the two frequently appearing in paintings that they had commissioned, though normally in a subtle way that did not detract from the main focal point of each work.

This famous Christian tale teaches us of how different individuals learn of their fate during this judgement, with their precise destination depending on what level of morality they had lived their previous life. Essentially, it is a warning to us all of the potential pitfalls of not following the word of the Bible.

Beaune Altarpiece in Detail Rogier van der Weyden