Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, Vatican City

Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, Vatican City

 

The Last Judgment is a fresco by Michelangelo on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It took nine years to complete. Michelangelo began working on it three decades after finishing the ceiling of the chapel.

 

The work is massive and spans the entire wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. It was executed from 1537 to 1541. The Last Judgment is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse. The souls of humans rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ surrounded by his saints.

 

The Last Judgment was an object of a heavy dispute between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo: the artist was accused of immorality and intolerable obscenity, having depicted naked figures, with genitals in evidence, inside the most important church of Christianity, so a censorship campaign (known as the "Fig-Leaf Campaign") was organized by Carafa and Monsignor Sernini (Mantua's ambassador) to remove the frescoes. When the Pope's own Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, said "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully," and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather "for the public baths and taverns," Michelangelo worked the Cesena's semblance into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld (far bottom-right corner of the painting) with ass's ears {i.e.foolishness} while his nudity is covered by a coiled snake. It is said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff responded that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell, so the portrait would have to remain.

 

The genitalia in the fresco were later covered by the artist Daniele da Volterra, whom history remembers by the derogatory nickname "Il Braghettone" ("the breeches-painter").

 

St Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin (a self-portrait by Michelangelo) in The Last Judgment.

 

In the painting, Michelangelo does a self portrait depicting himself as St. Bartholomew after he had been flayed (skinned alive) This is reflective of the feelings of contempt Michelangelo had for being commissioned to paint "The Last Judgement". The figure of St. Bartholomew depicts the satirist and erotic writer Pietro Aretino who had tried to extort a valuable drawing from Michelangelo. He holds the painter's flayed skin as a symbol of attempted victimization.

 

PS: No Flash Used

21,086 views
10 faves
11 comments
Taken on April 9, 2004