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Michelangelo’s Last Judgment

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    Michelangelo’s Last JudgmentIntroductionAs time pass by, the work of the famous artist Michelangelo entitled Last Judgment has been marveled from centuries to centuries, and from different civilization. The making of project in Sistine chapel was considered as Paul’s first significant commission during the 1534. His deed at that point had been linked with the intentions of affiliating to the groups of papacy under Sixtus IV and Julius II.

            As far as the history of renaissance is concerned, it was Paul who recruited Michelangelo, whom at that point was zealously committed in service of Medici commission at San Lorenzo from Florence, and came to the city of Rome. The fresco of Michelangelo placed in the Sistine Chapel have long attained and maintained its fame among the nations. When Michelangelo started his painting in the ceiling of Sistine chapel during the spring of 1536, he had the better scope of the ceiling space, which enabled him to determine the factors that would suggest the kind of painting to be expected in this space. According to Barnes (1998) from his book entitled, Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: The Renaissance Response, Michelangelo has attained the remarks of a rebellious genius with his decorum branded with prudishness, which all in all combined to distance the artist from this seemingly puritanical notion (39).

    The work of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment has been considered as one of the main relics of renaissance era.Within the study, the primary focal point is the work of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment placed and painted in the altar walls of Sistine Chapel. The main concern of the discussion is to illustrate the interpretation of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment considering every point of the work of art. In this condition, the study should provide appropriate means in creating the angles of traditional interpretation, the artist’s view and the innovations brought by Michelangelo’s work to the commission.

    DiscussionMichelangelo’s Interpretation of Last JudgmentFrom the book of Paoletti (2005) entitled, Art in Renaissance Italy, he mentioned that at the right after the cleaning of the fresco, the exact colors utilized by Michelangelo revealed the same colors he had utilized in the ceiling of the chapel (501). Furthermore, Michelangelo utilized darker colors for his paintings especially on the lower corners wherein the illustration shows the rising dead from their own graves from the left, while those cursed were facing the fury of hell in the right corners of the fresco. Unquestionably, Michelangelo had emphasized the demonic character and humanistic theme from his work, Last Judgment.  On the other hand, Michelangelo had significantly led the Virgin and Christ as the main standing points of the painting from the two copies of Casa Buonarrotti (Barnes 1988 242).

    As according to Barnes (1998), Michelangelo provided an evident distinction in terms of gender. The uncommon distribution of women in the Last Judgment provided the signification that women have the possibility of obtaining beatitude and can even manifest courage of the martyrs, which was very much opposed by the church during that time (44). Michelangelo symbolized this touch of feministic defense as one of the representations in his painting.Meanwhile, considering the stage wherein the painting of Michelangelo was still being planned, it was Medici from 1536 to whom the initiation of the painting had depended on.

    Hence, a theory had been proposed in the writings of Barnes (1998) entitled A Lost Modello for Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” wherein he mentioned that the placement of the iconographic St. Lawrence had become very much pronounced in the painting because it was the favorite saint of the Clement VII Medici, who died during 1534 (245).While St. Michael had been a pronounced figure in the painting as well, Barnes (1988) add up this was also due to the Medici’s preference, since he had been a devout to St.

    Michael in gratitude for his protection during the Sack of Rome (245). The work of Michelangelo had been given recognition to Clement VII Medici, especially with his death on 1534. As with the interpretation for this matter, Michelangelo greatly acknowledged Pope Clement VII as his patron. Added by Burroughs (1995), the Sistine  Chapel’s Last Judgment was conspicuously placed at the focal point of the altar to provide more emphasis of Michelangelo’s theological piece, which manifested power and sanctity, and executed by a celebrated artist whose work was sure to attract intense public attention and even scrutiny (55).

    Another most commonly depicted symbolism present in the Last Judgment was the imagery of hell with major controversy in its placement and role it played. The placement of this particular figure at the lower edge of the painting symbolizes the cosmological view of the universe, which coincides to the Ascent to Heaven and Descent to Hell – “flat earth” conceptuality. As for the interpretation imposed by Shrimplin (1994) in his article, Hell in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment, he became very much particular in observing how the cosmological pattern had been incorporated within the last judgment (83). He noticed that Michelangelo, despite of the radial emphasis and centered focal point, still utilized the layered horizontal composition with ascending and descending tiers, which can be interpreted as one form of cosmos influence in his painting.

    From the analysis and interpretation of Burroughs (1995), this had conveyed intense notion for Michelangelo’s use of sacred images and relics in his painting (58). The painting had been rich in relaying religious message and ritual observance of relics and characters essential to Roman Catholic Church. From Burroughs’ (1994) interpretation, he noticed how Michelangelo, with his inclination to theological perspective, had marked his Last Judgment with the presence of Roman supremacy (58).Added by Hall (1976) in her article entitled, Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: Resurrection of the Body and Predestination, the use of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment to illustrate Roman Catholicism supremacy had also been initiated in order to support the theories and debate of after-life and resurrection issue, which had been one of the major argument against other Pagan religion during that time (88).

    In addition, the era of Last Judgment and Michelangelo occurred during the renaissance wherein the intense argument between Roman Catholic against other religious sects were evident. One of the prevalent idealism during that time was Neo-Platonism, wherein the concept of soul immortality was greatly applied. Hall (1976) added that Michelangelo had been influenced by the religious beliefs of Neo-Platonism, which became evident in the overall painting of the Last Judgment; however, based on their analysis of such concept, the application was rather slim and limited to some character only (88).Traditional Analysis of Michelangelo’s WorkAs according to Paoletti (2005), with the commission’s preference on Michelangelo’s work, they even ordered the removal of other frescos placed in the wall in order to give space to Michelangelo’s Last Judgment (501).

    The commission even removed Perugino’s altarpiece and some of Michelangelo’s earlier work that were placed in the altar as well. Some of the unusual practices of Michelangelo had been incorporated within the making of the fresco, while the common styles of Michelangelo were not utilized. From this point, Michelangelo decided not to utilize architectural frames, which had been the most common style recognized in several of his works. This form of Michelangelo’s innovation had been recognized by critiques and as for their evaluation, Michelangelo did not utilize the frames due to the absence of flat wall (Paoletti 2005 501).

    In addition, he insisted fresco to be placed in the entrance wall of the Chapel; however, it was Paul who altered the suggestions of Michelangelo, and instead of the entrance wall, Paul suggested it to be placed in the altar wall.In the illustration of Michelangelo’s fresco, his use of the heroic imagery and dramatically posed bodies had been recognized as one of Michelangelo’s traditional styles of figural art to be placed in the ceiling for the fresco. However, since the theme of Michelangelo’s work emphasized hellish fall of rebel angels, he provided the characteristic of fleshy, overdeveloped muscles, which can be considered Michelangelo’s obsession in human body, and the Roman copy of Lysippus’ statue (Paoletti 2005 501). Meanwhile, from Barnes’ perspective, the painting of Michelangelo suited well in variability of audiences particularly in delivering the message of traditional elements that entails responses of fear and hope despite of the complex theological illustration provided by the painting (44).

    As according to critiques (Shrimplin 1994; Shrimplin-Evangelidis 1990), the traditional view of Michelangelo’s piece had been influenced by two different religious forces, which became evident in the manner of character placement in the aspect of cosmology, and the characters utilized in the painting for Catholicism perspective. Shrimplin-Evangelidis (1990) had demonstrated the symbolism present in the Last Judgment. As according to him, the cosmic view and astrological perspective present in the painting had revealed significant imitation in Apollo centered within the circular format (610).This was for the purpose of providing more emphasis on the center figure, which was the imagery of Jesus Christ.

    The centering of Christ in the painting had given the new perspective of Apollo-Sun-Christ model, which became significant to critiques in support for their claims that the painting had the influence of traditional cosmology interpretations. According to Shrimplin (1994) there had there had long been a traditional tendency for the Last Judgment to be positioned on the interior of the west wall of a church, because of the association between the Last Judgment, or the end of the world, and the setting of the sun in the west (83).The absence of wall in the Last Judgment significantly implies that as if the wall had been affected by the intensity of the judgment. The realism applied by Michelangelo himself had been considered as unusual for his style.

    Within the intensity of the judgment, he implies how Christ appears in the band of figures aligned with the window area of the side walls (Paoletti 2005 501). From here on, Christ had been drawn neither seated, which is the traditional manner, nor with His feet, but rather half-crouched and in a corkscrew movement. Another significant view to be interpreted is the placement of the Last Judgment itself within the framework of the Sistine Chapel. Most commonly positioned on the East-West direction wherein the altar stands towards the East.

    From the scope of character analysis in relation to the traditional perspective, Paoletti (2005) mentioned about the Virgin wearing the blue drape had become the figure of psychological disengagement from the overall surrounding of the fresco (501).  Considering that the Virgin had possessed the role of intercession during the time of her allegiance and service to Christ and His followers, her intercession had been spaced out from the intensity of Last judgment. In the Roman Catholics, the figure of the Virgin had been considered very much concealed with the evidence of purity and innocence. With critiques’ remarks (Gill 2002 202), they suggested the work of Michelangelo to had displayed the Virgin in the concise way of providing the characteristic of religious perspective.

    On the other hand, it was St. Peter who had been placed as the largest figure present in the fresco in the right side, which somehow signified the office of the papal administration. From the artwork of Michelangelo, it had been a puzzling idea to see St. Peter as the one holding the keys to Kingdom to the Heaven, which, according to the Catholic perspective, this was handed to him by Christ Himself (Paoletti 2005 501).

    Meanwhile, the one who helped Christ carry the cross, St. Simon of Cyrene, had also obtained his position in the far right edge of the fresco (Gill 2002 202). Several of the saints were not as elaborated as those figures provided; however, references mentioned that some of these, such as the one beneath Christ and the Virgin had been St. Lawrence.

    The saint actually possessed the iconography at least as early as the frescoes in the Sancta Sacntorum at the end of the thirteenth century, appears with his symbol of gridiron (Paoletti 2005 501). As evident in the work of Michelangelo, he provided the flayed skin for St. Bartholomew, which had been a significant relic provided by Martin Luther’s protector – the elector of Saxony in Wittenberg. As some suggest (Paoletti 2005), this flayed skin is an actual symbolism of St.

    Bartholomew that had been placed in the fresco to signify his fears about his own salvation considering that he was not able to regain his bodily from due to the resurrection (501). From the article of Barnes (1995), the commentaries on Michelangelo’s work had been about the linking of the Last Judgment’s concept to the Dante’s concept of inferno (66). It was Michelangelo who provided the idea of creating the fresco with which he discussed with the Clement VII. Michelangelo’s idea was to illustrate how the Angels that rebel against God fell during the judgment.

    ConclusionAs with the study, with the main inquiry of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment interpretation, the very sense of his art can be divided into three parts. First, Michelangelo provided the interpretation of Roman religion supremacy with the use of theological characters and somehow incorporating as well different concept, such as Neoplatonism and Cosmology, in order to highlight the religious figures he had utilized. Second, Michelangelo had utilized this art as an opportunity to convey his commemoration to his patron Clement VII Medici. This is very much evident in the placement of the figures and on how he chose the characters to be emphasized in the story.

    Hence, this can be considered as his primary innovative contribution for the commission. Lastly, the traditional interpretation of Last Judgment coincide with the concept of heaven-ascend and hell-descend wherein he utilized the concept of flat Earth in order to illustrate the division of world in his painting.Works CitedBarnes, Bernadine. “A Lost Modello for Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”.

    ” Master Drawings   26.3 (1988): 239-248.Barnes, Bernadine. “Metaphorical Painting: Michelangelo, Dante, and the Last Judgment.

    ” The Art Bulletin   77.1 (1995): 65-81.Barnes, Bernadine. Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: The Renaissance Response.

    University of California Press, 1998.Burroughs, Charles. “The “Last Judgment” of Michelangelo: Pictorial Space, Sacred Topography, and the Social Worlds.” Artibus et Historiae,   16.

    32 (1995): 55-89.Gill , Meridith. Augustine in the Italian Renaissance. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

    Hall, Marcia B. “Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: Resurrection of the Body and Predestination.” The Art Bulletin   58.1 (1976): 85-92.

    Paoletti, John T. Art in Renaissance Italy. Laurence King Publishing , 2005.Shrimplin, Valerie.

    “Hell in Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment”.” Artibus et Historiae,   15.30 (1994): 83-107.Shrimplin-Evangelidis, Valerie.

    “Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.” Sixteenth Century Journal   21.4 (1990): 607-644.

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