Olga's Gallery

Michelangelo. The Last Judgment. 1534-1541. Fresco. Sistine Chapel, Vatican. More.

Michelangelo. The Last Judgment.
The Last Judgment

The Last Judgement, supposed to happen on the last day of creation, is described in Matthew 25, among others:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:31-34) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:46)

The work was officially unveiled on 31 October 1541, and was a scandal. Michelangelo was widely accused of blasphemy and sacrilege. The nude figures and their provocative poses irritated the authorities and the artist's enemies, and they demanded the fresco be destroyed. However, Pope Paul III was adamant that the fresco should stay. Pope Paul IV, Paul's III successor, instructed the painter Daniel da Volterra to paint clothing onto the figures, where possible, or at least clothe the most offensive parts of their bodies. Michelangelo impassively watched the mutilation of his work, commenting: "Tell His Holiness that this is a small matter, which can easily be rectified. Let His Holiness attend to the reform of the world: reforming a painting is easily done." There exists a copy of the original fresco before the clothing was added.


1. Christ and the Virgin. Michelangelo's Christ scandalized the contemporaries because he is very young and handsome, has no beard, and is not seated as described in the Bible.
2. In the group on Christ's left the central figure is St. John the Baptist. Behind him is a group of women -- saints, virgins and martyrs.
3. In the group on Christ's right is St. Peter, he is offering two huge keys to Christ, emblems of the power to bind and to release men from sin, that had been delegated to the Popes.
4. Below Christ on the left is the figure of St. Lawrence, holding his gridiron.
5. Below Christ on the right is the figure of St. Bartholomew, with the skin that was stripped from him when he was martyred. The skin is a self-portrait of the artist.
6. Left-hand lunette: angels lifting up the cross.
7. Right-hand lunette: angels, lifting up the column of the flagellation.
8. Right part of the fresco below the group of saints: The resurrection of the body. The damned are being pulled down into hell

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