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The Last Judgement Essay, Research Paper

Michelangelo Buonarroti. One of the greatest artists of all time. A man whose name has become synonymous with the word Masterpiece. The second of five brothers, Michelangelo was born on March 6, 1475 at Caprese in Tuscany. His mother died young and when he was six he was placed with a wet nurse, in a family of stone cutters. His father realized how smart the boy was, he quickly put him in school, and there he learned and studied Latin. While at school he met Francesco Granacci, who was six years older than him and who was learning the art of painting and encouraged Michelangelo to follow.

That’s what he did, and now he’s one of the greatest painters of all time. He painted famous pieces like the “Bruges Madonna”, “tondo of the Holy Family and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But one painting that stuck out in my mind and is one of my favorite paintings by Michelangelo is the Last Judgement. One of his most famous paintings, featuring a picture of the dammed being sent to hell.

During the proceeding centuries, the Last Judgement scene has maintained it’s iconography without changing. Christ, the judge is placed in the center, surrounded by the Apostles on thrones as, if they were in quiet review with the elect and the Reprobates on the opposite side. In this dramatic and swarming vision Michelangelo has completed the tough job of distinguishing the difference between the Elect, the Saints, and the Blessed, from the Damned and the Demons. The composition of the left side of the fresco shows the bodies rising with difficulty from the ground in different stages of decay. “Michelangelo must have had Ezeikiels words that refer to the Resurrection of the dead. As with every motif, which stimulated his imagination, Michelangelo unites numerous episodes into a artificial sight had taken hold of both of Medieval mentality, and for reasons of realism.” Michelangelo had referred to the drawing of the resurrection; in these he anticipated the theme of reconquering of vital energy and the more or less decisive separation of the earth. In order to show the tragedy of the great moment, Michelangelo imprints almost fatal movement on the humanity which gathers around Jesus.

The battle of the Centaurs was a reflection of the scheme of the battles of Alexander from Greek sculptures. In the judgement, the ancient idea of destiny and the Nemeses imprint on composition an archaic expressive value which renews, the decision of fates. “There is an monumental female figure, strongly modeled in the clouds in the left of the painting. She turns toward Christ, the judge and seizes a young girl who clasped her around the waste as an act of protection”.( Abrams pg.107 Michelangelo the painter) The two figures are on the edge of a cloud strip which serves as a sculptured base.

“In Michelangelo’s work, the bodies pass from the sluggishness that joins them with the earth from which they rise with a great deal of difficulty, almost painfully. The ascent is carried out as a rescue in a joining between the colossal nudes”.(Chadwick pg.324)They are still wrapped in laziness and falling backwards, held up by their reborn partner or friend and by the Angels. They are like lifeless bodies in a mission of a sudden new consciousness of a new beginning that projects them upwards. They seem attracted to a force much like the desire which, in Dante excite Paolo and Francesca. It’s because of the divine will which calls them to him. Also in the painting, the kneeling Virgin Mary is placed right next to Christ, with his powerful gesture. She is placed in the nude with other figures is order to better establish her action. She is able to wear clothes as you can see from careful examination of the details of her figure. She is seen as her arms and turns imploringly to her son. Mary is no longer a path way between the waiting of the people and the supreme judge. She is gathered in the shadow of the threatening gestures of Christ. She herself looks like she is almost frightened at the anger of her son. She is completely wrapped in the robes which show the spirit within her, she also seems to bury her face by folding her arms together and holding them close to her face. She seems very scared and frightened, she doesn’t know what else to do besides hide.

“ The last Judgement was set up in zones corresponding to the horizontal placement of the lateral wall behind the altar and the illumination from the lost windows was symbolically replace with the representation of Christ”. (Brigstocke pg. 446 Dictionary of Art)

The one thing that was immediately noticed about the painting of the Last Judgement is the way it was sectioned off. To the left and right, up and down. The dammed to Christ’s left and the saved on his right. Heaven on top and Hell on the bottom.

“The equilibrium is established, calmly and discreetly, by the understated contrapposto of the arms and legs”. ( Morrow and Co.pg.240 Michelangelo). The lower section of the painting has the, with the rising of the Elect and the falling of the dammed, has the greatest variety of arrangements, but it does not interfere with the reciprocals between the two opposite zones. In one part a member already revived by the Divine, Christ, calls painfully pulls up his friend or partner, who still lies in the deep sleep of death. In another at the right of the painting, a couple rejects a demon.

The whole bottom part of the painting is less crowded with figures, the bodies are being more spread out showing more of the sky. Each figure looks like a statue, perfectly defined by it’s own shape.

“The nudity of the figures, the confused agitation of the groups held together in what looks like to be a last attempt of salvation, the lack of distinction between the various characters, who all look to be at the same level in the moment in the hour of the final judgement.” Again Christ at the center is not to be seen as by the distinction of his clothes, or lack there of , or his other features, but he is recognized only because is placed in the clouds of heaven with great power and glory. “At the lords feet St. Lawrence and St. Bartholomew clouds of heaven and bare the news of Christ the savior. One thing that you notice is that when St. Bartholomew died he was skinned alive, and while he’s kneeling before Christ he is holding his skin in his left hand”. (Abrams pg121) The angels in the painting who sound the trumpets and they also look to be showing the the books of good and the books of evil works to the alarmed humanity appear lower on the wall as if they were just floating on space or something.

At the bottom of the painting there is a figure named Minos, the prince of hell. He is surrounded by a number of demons who have smiles on their faces and don’t seemed to be bothered. Minos is covered partly by a object that sort of resembles a snake. This could show the form the devil took place in the story of Adam and Eve. All forms of the devil appear in hell, where the dammed are being taken. Also it shows the demons of hell grabbing and pulling the dammed into hell. There also seems to be a demon standing in a boat beating people with the long wooden paddle or stick.

The top of the painting has Angels in heaven holding up cross, not on one side, but both sides. On the left and right there are about eleven Angels holding up this cross. Waiting for the saved to come join them in heaven. They look unhappy and upset with no trace of a smile on their faces like the demons, the reason for this is because they are scared and afraid of what Christ might do. He does not look happy himself, and he is the one judging the saved opposed to the dammed. Anyone below Christ is being dragged to hell with Minos. They are the sinners, the people who can’t be trusted and those who have betrayed Christ. “The Last Judgement was conceived as a cosmic swirling network of entwined and deformed figures centered on the Apollonian figure of stern, avenging Jesus”. (pg. 2823 The Encyclopedia of Art).

Michelangelo was a brilliant artist and a brilliant man. He painted some of the most amazing pictures and scenes. He is also known for his great sculpting. His most famous being the Pieta (Mary Mourning the dead Christ in her arms). And another sculpture of David. His most famous paintings are of biblical pictured, the Sistine Chapel ceiling to the great Fresco of the Last Judgement. The way he gave great detail to certain parts of the pictures he did was amazing. For example, the way who put in St. Bartholomew in the portrait underneath Jesus with him holding his own skin, or how he took the time to express the fear in Mary when she sees the wrath of her son. He’s just a great artist with the passion and desire to paint, he was so gifted and it’s just amazing how much he accomplished during his life and how much he did for the world of art and the science of art. I’ve learned so much from looking at the work of the great Michelangelo, he will always be remembered for his place in the world of art and for the wonderful paintings that he has done. And the one thing that I can say is that this, the Last Judgement is truly a masterpiece.


1. Brigstocke, Hugh. The Dictionary of Art. Groves Dictionary inc. New York

2. Abrams, Harry. N. Michelangelo the Painter. New York 1964

3. Morrow, William. Reynal and Company. The Complete Work of Michelangelo. New York

4. www.yahoo.com

5. WWW.Michelangelo.com


7. Greystone Press. The Encyclopedia of Art. New York

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