the last judgement mural in the sistine chapel

The last judgment, the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo

The final devil is a mural that is on the altar of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican. It is the artwork of Michelangelo. The painting took nine years to complete; he only began working on it thirty years after the ceiling was full. The last judgment mural covers the whole ceiling of the chapel.

The painting took place in 1534 and 1541. The painting is about the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse. There are the righteous in the company of Christ and his saints and the sinners who get their punishment.

close up view of the last judgement sistine chapel mural painted by michelangelo

The mural raised controversy since the figures in the painting are naked. Cardinal Carafa said that Michelangelo was immoral and obscene. Furthermore, the mural was in the most known church of Christianity.

Since Michelangelo had all the figures in the painting naked, a censorship campaign by Carafa and Monsignor Sermini began and its main aim was to remove the fresco. The work of Michelangelo remained until Daniele da Volterra covered up the genitalia in the figures.

flayed skin depicting michelangelos portrait

Michelangelo put his portrait in the painting, showing himself as St. Bartholomew after his skinning. It is that his reason for doing this is because he had feelings contempt for being tasked with painting the last judgment.

Reception of the mural

There were those who appreciated the painting and then there were the critics who viewed the drawing as immoral. The disputes arising from the last judgment saw the artist Michelangelo accused ever so often of insensitivity and disrespect, especially because his painting was real nudity on the ceiling of the chapel.

The master of ceremony of the Pope, Biagno da Cesena raised complaints about the art calling it shameful and worthy of being in taverns and baths. Michelangelo put Cesena’s face in the painting depicting him as the judge of the underworld. He gave him donkey ears and covered his genitalia with a coiled snake.

Cesena complained to the Pope, but the Pope said that the painting had to remain. For two whole decades, the controversies continued, and the art remained the same. The genitalia in the painting was then painted over when the Council of Trent recommended restraint in religious imagery. The use of images for art in chapels and places of worship had to be approved by the bishop.

vie of the entire sistine chapel ceiling along with last judgement mural painted by michelangelo

The last judgment

The painting has over 300 influential figures, all in different poses all over the wall of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. There are Christ and His saints, the leader of the underworld, the righteous and the sinners. The last judgment is an explicit depiction of what the second coming of Christ is going to be like for sinners and the righteous.

Christ is a powerful figure who is the center and most important part of the painting. Just next to Christ is the Virgin Mary and then below Him are wingless angels who sound the trumpets for the dead to rise for judgment day.

There are two of the angels holding the books who seem to be recording the deeds of those resurrected. The book that contains the damned is kept lower, and the expression on the angel’s face that of empathy. Looking closely, you spot the chosen ones, the elect on the bottom left. The dead coming from their graves, angels are there assisting the resurrected ones.

There is a herculean angel who is shown to lift souls that are clinging to rosary beads. There is also a tug of war as a demon tries to claim one of the resurrecting souls. The angels pull at the heart as the devil tries to take the man. The tug opens up a crack that gives a small view of the fires of hell.

the last judgement mural in the sistine chapel

The right side, on the left side of Christ, demons drag the sinners to hell. There are those trying to escape the wrath of hell, and the angels beat them. Some of the sinners’ vices show. One of them is a sinner because of pride; they dare to fight back contesting their fate.

The ferryman from the Greek mythology who is a transporter for souls is seen swinging his oar and shows the damned the way to hell. Below that image is the picture of Minos, who has a snake biting his genitals. He is at the corner of hell passing judgment to the souls sent to hell.

The detail put into the painting and the graphic nature that the mural depicts the viewer fear of what’s to come and of the end days. Michelangelo’s aim, however, was to show the triumph of Christ and that heaven dominates.

Michelangelo design was to put together an epic painting that those keen, elite and understanding would see the artistic features of the art. Those who did not understand this found the art shameless and immoral. They missed the main picture that the art aims to show.

In the 16th century, there weren’t as many people viewing the last judgment. Today, there are millions of people traveling to see the final sentence that is such an artistic milestone and tourist attraction. It is much more appreciated now than it was then.

In 1980-1994, the mural underwent restoration together with the chapel. The recovery, seen to by the curator of Vatican museums Fabrizio Mancinelli. During the renovation, several aspects of the painting found, that were hiding under the surface. The image of Cesena a Minos did not have its nudity covered by a coiled snake; rather the snake was biting his genitalia.

The covering up of the nudity of the figures that was done by Daniele took place in 1564 after the death of Michelangelo. The painting remained in its original state until the artist passed away then the nudity on the mural was covered up.

Pictures and engravings of the art have made their way around the globe. The last judgment remains the most discussed and most visited, today, painting in the world. Even after covering up the nudity of the painting, it did not lose its value and intended impact on the viewers.