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Michelangelo and his famous work of art the last judgement

Images of a Masterpiece. The work depicts the second coming of Christ and, although the artist is clearly inspired by the Bible, it is his own imaginative vision that prevails in this painting.

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo in Rome

When executing his "Last Judgement" it would seem that Michelangelo had been given artistic licence to paint scenes, not only from the Bible, but also from mythology. Unfortunately it was decided that works of art in sacred places had to be modest and a pupil of Michelangelo, Daniele da Volterra, was commissioned to cover the figures nakedness with loincloths and veils.

Originally all the figures were naked but da Volterra's intervention earned him the nickname of the maker of breeches.

  • This may indeed have been the view of the Sack held by the Protestants, and may even have been the initial response of some Roman Catholics immediately following the event;
  • The 16th century art writers Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi described Christ's gesture with his right arm as angry, but his impassive face contradicts this interpretation;
  • In any event, the project necessitated bricking up the two clerestory windows and destroying the quattrocento decorations - Pietro Perugino's frescoes of Pharaoh's Daughter Finding Moses and the Adoration of the Shepherds, and the portraits of the Popes - all of which had encircled the Chapel and continued across the altar wall.

Other over painting was added in the next two centuries and for the same reason. With the restoration of the chapel in the 1980's and 1990's only Daniele da Volterra's additions have been saved as part of the history of the painting, all other additions have now been removed.

Other Great Masters

At the top of the painting the cross, the crown of thorns, and other symbols of the passion of Christ can be seen. Detail head of Christ.

  • Unlike his earlier work, including the rest of the Chapel which he painted, his depiction of the Last Judgment was much more monochrome as well as gruesome with the souls of the damned cowering in fear as they are dragged down by demons;
  • Other over painting was added in the next two centuries and for the same reason.

With a gesture of his arms he damns a large part of humanity plunging them into hell, but some are saved rising to heaven. Even the Madonna at his side seems to cower in fear at the scene.

Angels and Saints of the Last Judgement. Angels trumpets and the Archangel Michael s The dead are awakened by angels trumpets and the Archangel Michael reads from the book of souls to be saved.

The last Judgement, Michelangelo

The larger book on the right contains a list of the damned destined for hell. The flayed skin of the Saint s St Bartholomew holds his own skin.

St Bartholomew holds a sheet of his own skin in his left hand and in his right hand is a knife. This symbolizes the terrible fate of Bartholomew who was flayed alive.

The face on the skin is reputed to be a self-portrait of the artist.

The Last Judgment

St Catherine holds a section of the spiked wheel that she was tied to for her torture. The wheel eventually broke and she was beheaded. Just above St Catherine, St Blaise holds the iron combs used to tear the flesh from his body, he too was beheaded.

St Sebastian holds the arrows that were shot into his body, this failed to kill him so he was clubbed to death.