“Last Judgment” by Michelangelo: description of the picture, features and interesting facts

The theme of death in the work of the deeply faithful Michelangelo occupied a huge place: the artist was interested in breaking the shell of the mortal body and in breaking into Eternity. The fresco "The Last Judgment" by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel in a completely new way develops and embodies this idea.

Brief history of the altar image

In 1534, the genius creator received an order from Pope Clement VII for painting the huge wall of the Sistine Chapel, whose length was 13.7 meters and height was 12 meters. He did not start work, but when Clement VII died, his successor Paul III called in 1537 by Michelangelo to Rome. The works did not begin until the slope of the wall was changed and the artist did not receive ultramarine, which cost more than gold. At this time, he was no longer young, he was 62 years old. The tremendous work on the woods on damp plaster required enormous not only moral, but also physical efforts, which, having created The Last Judgment,Michelangelo threw his contemporaries in reverent horror on October 31, 1537.

The opening ceremony of the fresco

The higher clergy, led by pontiff Paul III (Farnese), and invited laypeople were shocked by what they saw as a cosmogonic spectacle. The Last Judgment by Michelangelo was unparalleled. The shock was so great and the tension was so intense that Paul III fell on his knees, begging God not to remember his sins on the Day of Judgment.

doomsday michelangelo

Contemporaries perceived the mural with fear and admiration, marveling at the skill and power of Michelangelo and the magnificent picture of the end of time. This should be emphasized, because the second coming of Christ is a universal catastrophe, in which the earth will acquire its original state. Humanity as a historically existing one passes into a new quality from the life of the temporal and perishable to eternal life. Some will find salvation and eternal life in heaven, while others will find themselves for their sins in hell.

Vatican. The Sistine Chapel

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo fits into the whole program of the Sistine Chapel. On the vault - the creation of the world and man and his fall, the beginning of civilization, on the walls - Moses and Christ as life under the laws, life under grace, and finally, the Last Judgment is depicted on the end altar wall.

Michelangelo the Last Judgment description

This was exceptional for the iconography of the time, because the Last Judgment was depicted on the western wall. When leaving the church, the believer saw a warning about what awaits him at the end of time. The location of the Last Judgment on the altar further enhances its significance. Now we begin to consider the fresco of Michelangelo's “Last Judgment”. The description begins.

Punishing and merciful God

In the center of the composition is Christ Helios, that is, Christ as light, as Apollo. Initially this is an early Christian idea. Around him in circles are the saints and martyrs who are in heaven. Coming to him: Mary, sv. Peter, sv. John the Baptist, of sv. Lawrence and St. Bartholomew. Christ in heaven in a completely unusual way without a beard as giving light and surrounded by this light. This is a completely new image of the Savior.

michelangelo buonarroti terrible court

His posture at the same time expresses mercy and anger. Because with one hand he blesses. It is directed to the left in the direction of the righteous. The other, pointing to the right, is to sinners, he punishes. The figure of the Savior is imbued with power and unearthly beauty. We must remember that Michelangelo was a Neoplatonist.Therefore, he had one body, mind and soul. The gesture of the right raised hand pacifies the excitement and allows you to start a slow rotational movement of all the characters in the fresco.

Self portrait

The most amazing in the fresco - the image of Bartholomew, sitting at the feet of Christ. He keeps his skin torn from him by the heathen. So Michelangelo portrays his self-portrait.

the terrible court michelangelo picture description

That is, he makes himself involved in the end of time, becomes a member of this universal cataclysm. In this way, he prays God for forgiveness, appearing before him in a strange form. This is the central part of the fresco by Michelangelo's Last Judgment.

Taking the righteous into heaven

The resurrection of the dead and the attainment of bodies was decided unusually. Nothing like the history of art does not exist. The righteous, having lost their material burden, overcome gravity and slowly soar upward.

the terrible court of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

They are helped by saints and martyrs, supporting them along the way. There is even a rosary, for which they clutch: that is, we are saved only by prayer and austerity. This image offers to think about how scary to appear before the court and not to give an account of his right and wrong.An implacable impassive wheel of samsara arises before us, when only for earthly deeds a person will get what he deserves. So saw Michelangelo Buonarroti the Last Judgment.


Upstairs in two lunettes, Michelangelo depicts angels carrying instruments of passion. It is a cross in one, which is a symbol of martyrdom and humiliation, and a column of scourging in the other. It means transient earthly power. Angels without wings on the background of ultramarine are written in very complex poses and remind of the terrible sacrifices of Christ. This is the upper part of the Last Judgment created by the grim genius of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s work. Description of the creation continues.

Initial version

It should be borne in mind that Michelangelo originally portrayed all the saints, Christ and the Mother of God naked. He proceeded from the text of St. Paul, that when all are resurrected, they will acquire new heavenly bodies, intended for eternal life.

Therefore, for Michelangelo it was not important that a particular person, a particular martyr or saint, whom he portrays. All of humanity came together at this moment of the end of time. Humanity is one in its nakedness.It has nothing to do with the concept of nudity on earth, but on the contrary, nakedness aligns everyone in the face of God. We are different only by clothes, and when they are not there, we are all equal. This idea was important to Michelangelo.

Pope Paul IV demanded that all the characters, and more than four hundred of them, be “clothed”. The work was done by Daniele da Volterra.

Immersion in Hell

Below, the angels trumpet the beginning of the Last Judgment. They hold two books.michelangelo buonarroti dreadful court descriptionThe little book of life, which is directed towards the righteous, and the big book of death, which looks towards the sinners. There are many more of them: many are called, but few are called. And on the one hand, we see sinners being thrown down, there is a whirlpool, then the resurrected saints slowly rise up. The whole composition is given an epic pathos.

michelangelo the dreadful court fresco of the sistine chapel

For sinners "The Last Judgment" by Michelangelo (the description of the picture continues to present to your attention) is truly terrible. They are dragged by devils to the boat of Charon, who will ferry them forever to Hell. Malicious persons peep out of it, who will deliver flour to people as punishment for transgressions. The Last Judgment by Michelangelo is an eternal reminder that we must live according to the ten commandments that Christ proclaimed, descending from Mount Favor.

One of many

Just look at the figure of a sinner, covering his mournful face with his hand. An expression of fear and hopelessness is written on his face: a mask frozen on his face shows despair and despair. Devils firmly grabbed his legs and, smiling joyfully, dragging him along. His powerful athletic body does not attempt to free himself. Only now he realized that the Last Judgment had entered his sinful existence. Michelangelo fixes the inevitability of punishment.


Interesting Facts

  • The Sistine Chapel received its name in honor of Pontiff Sixt IV. It was he who ordered its construction in order to protect themselves from the encroachments of the Medici and the Turkish sultans.
  • For the painting of the choir from Florence from the former enemies arrived the best painters.
  • The ceiling of the chapel by Michelangelo painted twenty-five years before working on The Last Judgment. He quickly completed work in four years.
  • For writing naked bodies, some called the painter a heretic. In response, the caustic artist portrayed Cardinal Cesena in Hell in the form of King Minos with the donkey’s long ears. His nakedness is hidden by a serpent coiled around. Michelangelo had a very difficult character.

michelangelo buonarroti dreadful court description

  • The Last Judgment (fresco of the Sistine Chapel) could not survive to our times, since one of the pontiffs in 1596 wanted to destroy the artistic creation.

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