Sunday, June 22, 2014


The Last Judgment
1370 x 1220 cm
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo covers the wall behind the alter of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. Although Michelangelo is clearly inspired by the Bible, it is his own imaginative vision that prevails in this painting. He portrayed the separation of the blessed souls and the damned souls by showing the saved ascending on the left and the damned descending on the right, as judged by Christ surrounded by prominent saints.  The work took four years to complete. Michelangelo began working on it twenty five years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

While traditional medieval last judgments showed figures dressed according to their social positions, Michelangelo created all the figures naked. The controversies, that continued for years, that the works of art in sacred places had to be modest, led in 1564 to the decision by the Congregation of the Council of Trent to have some of the figures of the Judgment that were considered "obscene" covered. The task of painting the covering drapery (pants) was given to a pupil of Michelangelo, Daniele da Volterra, and da Volterra covered the figures nakedness with loincloths and veils. 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.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. He was considered the greatest living artist in his lifetime, and ever since then he has been held to be one of the greatest artists of all time. In his lifetime he was also often called Il Divino ("the divine one").

In his personal life, Michelangelo was abstemious. He told his apprentice: "However rich I may have been, I have always lived like a poor man." It is said he was indifferent to food and drink, eating "more out of necessity than of pleasure" and that he "often slept in his clothes and ... boots." He was by nature a solitary and melancholy person. His biographer says, "His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him."