The composition relates to two engravings, by Alaert Du Hameel and Hieronymus Cock, depicting a Last Judgement that would appear to derive from an unknown work by Bosch (Certainly a sixteenth-century copy [Hollstein, III, 9] of the former gives Bosch as the inventor of the composition). In all three, Christ is depicted enthroned between flying angels above a wide landscape with, on one side, a city with the Damned, and, on the other, a paradisal mountain to which Angels lead the Righteous. The main iconographic difference lies in the fact that, in the present panel (and in common with Bosch's Last Judgement triptych in the Kunstakademie, Vienna), the hellish demons occupy themselves in tormenting souls throughout the front and middle planes, whereas in the engravings they are in combat with the angelic host, and only at liberty to pursue their infernal tortures in Hell.
Don Infante Sebastian Gabriel Borbón y Braganza (for the information about whom recorded below, see M. Agueda, in The Dictionary of Art, J. Turner, ed., London, 1996, 4, pp. 378-9) was the son of Pedro de Borbón and the Princessa de Braganza; he was married first to Maria Amalia of Naples and then in 1860 to Maria Cristina (1833-1902), the sister-in-law of Queen Isabella II. An artist in his own right, in 1827 he was elected Académico de Mérito of the Academia de Bellas Artes de S Fernando, Madrid, and travelled for many years in Italy, copying works of art and painting landscapes. He was also a patron of contemporary artists, supporting Alejandro Ferrant in Italy with a pension and he commissioning paintings from José Ribelles, Rafael Tejeo and Juan Gálvez.
The formation of his remarkable collection, however, began with inheritances from his father, and was augmented by his two wives and by the purchases he made through his friend, the painter José de Madrazo y Agudo, who acted as intermediary. An inventory made in 1835 reveals that by that early date his collection was almost complete. His preference was for seventeenth-century Spanish paintings, including such works as the Antonio de Pereda's Annunciation in the Prado, Madrid, and Descent from the Cross in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles, Murillo's Miracle of the Porciuncula (Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum), Alonso Cano's The Dominican (Munich, Alte Pinakothek) and Saint Bernard and the Virgin (Madrid, Prado), Juan Carreño de Miranda's Portrait of Charles II (Valenciennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and Velázquez's Doña Margarita (San Diego, Museum of Art). Only two sixteenth-century Spanish painters were represented in the Infante's collection: Juan de Juanes and El Greco, his acquisition of the latter's Assumption (Chicago, Art Institute) and Saint Bernard (Madrid, Prado) presaging the re-evaluation of that artist that took place in the nineteenth century.
Netherlandish painting, including the present work, was well represented, including Hugo van der Goes's Adoration of the Shepherds (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie), Van der Weyden's Saint Luke and the Virgin (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts), and Metsys' Salvator Mundi (Aachen, Musée des Beaux-Arts). In 1837 the Infante's possessions were confiscated for political reasons, his immense library was given to the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, and his collection of paintings was exhibited in the Museo de la Trinidad, together with pictures acquired from the suppression of the religious orders. Shortly before his death, however, his property was returned to him and, after his death, a first sale was held in Pau in 1876 and another in the Hôtel Drouot in Paris in 1890; it is uncertain, however, whether the present work was included in either sale. When his widow died a final sale was held in Madrid in 1902, the remainder of the collection staying in the possession of their heirs.