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.

a view of the exterior of bonampak site, an ancient and majestic temple is visible

Bonampak – Temple of Murals

Bonampak is the temple of murals. It is an ancient Maya archaeological site in Chiapas, Mexico. The Bonampak was dependent on the Yaxchilan which is only 30 kilometers away. The site is not a unique site regarding architecture, but it has claimed its place through the murals in the three rooms of the Bonampak.

The site’s construction occurred in the late classic period (500 AD – 800 AD). It is home to the Maya murals that have high-quality preservation. The Bonampak murals set the record straight on the assumption that the Maya were a peaceful culture. The paintings depict war and human sacrifice among the Maya.

The first non-Mayans to see the site saw it in 1946. No accurate information on who was the first there. Speculations dominate on who was. First, some of the most know speculations are that it was two American travelers or photographers. The Americans got to the site through the guidance of a Mayan who paid visits to the ancient temples to pray. The photographer was the first to see the paintings that cover the walls on one of the rooms. The murals show war and victory.

a view of the bonampak murals looking at ceiling area of temple room

History of Bonampak

Bonampak and Yaxchilan leaders fought for supremacy. Bird Jaguar from Bonampak and K’inich Skull from Yaxchilan were in a battle in the 5th century that Bird lost. By 600 CE Bonampak was a part of Yaxchilan. During this time that Yaxchilan had Bonampak in its wraps, the commissioning of the murals took place. The king of Yaxchilan has Yaxchilan artists put up the structure in 790 CE. In the 9th century, Bonampak broke free from Yaxchilan.

The structures at Bonampak

Structure one at Bonampak was at the end of the eight century. It is 16 meters long, four meters thick and seven meters tall. It is on a T-shape platform, and speculations state that it had a roof comb. The structure has three rooms that each has murals with details on the ascension to power of Chooj, the son of the Bonampak ruler Yajaw Muwan.

There have been disputes as to the order of events, but most people just opt to view it in chronological order. You begin in the first room and end with the third room. The first room contains a sense of tribute, dressing, dance and musical performances. The second room depicts conflict, torture in the company of great members of court and echelons of the victorious. The third room has dance scenes, observers, and performance of rituals.

There are 281 human representations in the rooms. Most of them have captions, 1/3 have names while most the rest of them contain no titles. Theories are trying to explain why more than half have no captions while others have.

a view of the walls in the bonampak temple, figures are visible painted on the walls

One of the theories is deaths or due to change in politics. The Bonampak murals are not from one mind but a team of experts who put to work to realize these murals. Every person involved possessing a unique set of skills that brought about the realization of the walls in structure one.

The outside of the structure does not enjoy as much preservation as the rooms. It once had great color, hues of Maya blue, red and green. In 1996, a team of Yale University students led by their lecturer Mary Miller made the Bonampak Documentation where they studied the Bonampak murals even more.

Each of the rooms is a unique story that is rich in detail for those keen in observing. To understand the Bonampak murals, one needs to take the time to study each one in the believed chronological order. The history of Maya is extensively on the walls. They must have taken a chance to put up, but the expertise has seen to their presence centuries later.

intricate carvings into the wall adorn the bonampak temple

Room 1

The first room is where the opening scene is. There is an ongoing event acknowledging the right of Chooj to rule. There are visitors’ present and influential people in the land. The representation of the meeting is 77 human figures who are all carrying their particular functions in the event. The ruling class is clearly shown with the dressing that they have on and where they sit.

There is evidence of dancers and instrumentalists on the south wall towards the east wall. There is an assortment of entertainers visible and one of the figures depicts that of a modern day smoker. He holds a cigarette and shows a lack of interest or boredom in the event at hand. There are extensive details on the meeting in the first room.

Room 2

The second room shows the greatest battle ever shown in Maya art. It is the largest room and has 139 human figure, more than any other room. At first glance, you meet the south wall that has soldiers in battle. There are blasting trumpets as the actions pick pace. The wall brings to perspective one of the great Maya beliefs that is, being left hand is a sign of weakness. The warriors who loose are left hand users, and others stripped naked.

Every inch of the wall has a recap of the battle in detail and shows the power of the right hand as the ruler holds up a spear covered in jaguar skin with his right hand to show authority and victory. Some of the defeated soldiers are even shown to have two left hands.

Room 3

Here, in this room, there is a kind of celebration. It is a ritual celebration of being victorious in battle. There is blood spilling by the nobles. There are 65 human figures in this room. The first and most noticeable figures are the three individuals standing together.

The ruler’s son is seen kneeling, holding an ax in his right hand and what the heart of the sacrificial victim on his left hand. The heart is said to have been a still beating heart. The ritual ceremony also has dancers.

The Bonampak is the temple of murals that detail the lives of the Mayas and show an extended form of war, victory and human sacrifice among the Maya. To understand the details on the art, there have been publications on the murals that explain more detail the contents.

bison in altamira cave

Cave art of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is in Spain. In the historic town Santillana del Mar in Cantabria. The cave is famous for its parietal cave paintings that consist of charcoal drawings and polychrome paintings of the human hands and local environment. The cave is dated back 18500 and 14000 years back. It falls within the upper Paleolithic age when Paleo human settlers were around.

Marcelino Sanz de Sautola was first to promote the cave as having prehistoric paintings. Together with Juan Vilanova in 1880, their publication of the caves research was made public. Releasing the study was not very welcome, it became controversial, and debates began. They took place until 1902 when similar findings made the evidence overwhelming. The cave of Altamira is a world heritage site as the UNESCO declares.

About the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is a result of the collapse of the new Karst phenomena in Mount Vispieres. The cave is 1000 meters long and has passages and chambers all through the cave. The central passage is about 6-8 meters high. It is a one of a kind cave that is rich in artifacts from the Upper Solutrean and lower Magdalenian.

The two periods fall under the Old Stone Age which shows that the cave had wild animal inhabitants. Humans living in the area took advantage of the plentiful wildlife that was in the valleys and the mountains and the aquatic life in the coastal regions. A rock fall over 13000 years back made the cave no longer accessible. The rock fall became a preservation of the contents of the cave until its discovery.

The discovery of the cave came about when a tree fell, misplacing the blocking rocks. There was evidence that humans were mostly at the mouth of the cave although the paintings were present throughout the cave. The paintings were mostly charcoal and ochre (hematite). The painting process involved diluting the pigments so that they had different intensities to work with comfortably. They took advantage of the contours of the cave to create three-dimensional drawings.

image of altamira bisons

Reproductions at the Museo del Mamut, Barcelona 2011

The cave boasts of a polychrome ceiling that is the catchiest part of the cave. It depicts a herd of Steppe bison that arts extinct, two horses, a large dog and a wild boar. The paintings date back to the Magdalenian age and even include abstract shapes. The Solutrean paintings mainly consist of horse and goat drawings.

There were hand prints too that came about by the artist blowing the pigment over their hands leaving a negative image. No other cave in the northern Europe has detailed and intricate paintings like the Altamira cave.

Discovery of the Cave

The credits go to Marcelino Sanz de Sautola, but the person who found the cave was his eight-year-old daughter Maria de Sautola who had been wandering off from her father when she saw the drawings. Marcelino teamed up with Juan Vilanova an archeologist from the University of Madrid to excavate the cave. The discovery was in 1879.

The publication by Marcelino and Juan got a rejection from Gabriel de Mortillet and Emile Cartailhac. The reason why it was hard to believe that the paintings were prehistoric was that of their quality. These two critics accused Marcelino of forgery. The debate and accusations continued until 1902 when other findings came up.

After the results had been made sure of, Emile took back his words and gave his support to Marcelino. Unfortunately, Marcelino did not live to see the confirmation as he died fourteen years earlier. After the confirmation, excavation was continued by Hermilio del Rio, 1902-1904 and Hugo Obermaier, 1924-1925 and finalized by Joaquin Gonzalez in 1981.

Dating

There is no comprehensive timeline on when the paintings date. In 2008, scientists, using uranium-thorium dating found that the arts are from over a period of 20,000 years. The next dating, done in 2012, where the earliest paintings were found to be from the Augnacian culture, the first occupants of northern Spain, 35,600 years old.

Significance of the cave of Altamira

The cave of Altamira is of a profound cultural significance to Spain, especially in Cantabria. The polychrome paintings in the cave are famous in Spain, and the government of Cantabria uses a logo that derives from the arts to promote tourism. A 20th-century cigarette brand also has a drawing from the cave as part of its logo.

So many things in Cantabria and the wider Spanish region borrow from the cave of Altamira. It makes the cave a very significant part of the area and a very useful discovery that has laid a foundation in the community.

A Spanish comic character and a series are known as Altamiro de la Cueva are because of the cave of Altamira. The storyline of the comic explores the life of cave dwellers. The Caves of Altamira song is a 1976 album that also circles the cave. The song was originally jazz but was then soul group, Perri did another version.

Viktor Schreckengost made dinnerware designs for Salem China that had inspirations from the bison, deer and the stick figures that were in the cave. The dinnerware, made in the mid-20th century. A second song on the cave came up in 1978 by a rock-folk group Ibio. The Bison image is on the cover of the album.

The impact of the cave has been evident in many areas, from entertainment to dinnerware and cultural implications. Modern day film, Altamira by Hugh Hudson in 2016 is about the discovery of the cave. The film stars a famous Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.

The discovery of the cave may have been rocky and disputed but once it gained acceptance everyone was able to see what a remarkable finding the cave is and it has helped benefit many people over time. Cantabria boasts of the status of a world historical site because of the Altamira cave. Even though Marcelino did not live to see the acceptance of his discovery of the cave, he opened the doors to a lifelong treasure that is the Altamira cave.

Greek Mythology Morpheus Fresco Mural Charon

The History of Murals

What is a mural?

A mural is a piece of art that is painted on walls. It can be on the inside of buildings or outside for public display. They are large and take artistic expertise to paint them. The artwork incorporates the architecture of the building to bring out the painting and the building as one.

There is an ongoing debate on whether the drawings that are on canvases then put up on the walls qualify as murals. It is an artistic style that has however been in use since the 19th century. Murals are on only on side walls; they can be on ceilings and floors.#

Brief history of murals

Murals date back to 30,000 BC from the earliest paintings in the Chauvet cave France. The largest numbers of paintings are from Egyptian tombs in 3150BC, Pompeii in 100BC-AD79 and Minoan places 1700-1600BC. The whole period within which ancient paintings are is known as the Upper Paleolithic times.

Dry plaster is how paintings were put together in the Middle Ages, the 14th century. Kerala mural painting is an example of fresco secco. When the technique of painting murals on wet plaster took root in Italy, circa 1300, wall painting quality grew. It is the age where mural painting began to take shape and become modern.

The best-known style of mural painting is Fresco, but there are many methods and techniques as shown by the Mexican muralism art movement that took significant root in modern times. The pioneers of this movement include Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose Orozco.

Fresco technique of mural painting utilizes water soluble paints and lime wash. Applying the mixture on large surface results in a wall painting. Once the mixture dries, the colors take shape. For millennia, another method known as the Marouflage technique has been in use.

Today, people appreciate murals even more, and the methods are different. They now incorporate oil painting which is very popular. There are abstract paintings and trickster murals that are known as Trompe-l’oeil. The significant change came about through the works of Graham Rust and Rainer Maria in the 1980’s. In Europe, oil painting has taken center stage and is in private and public buildings.

Mural painting is revolutionary and proves that walls and ceilings do not have to be plain. Now, wall paintings can be shown by transferring the wall art into a poster paper canvas and then paste on a wall. The art or photographic image gives the illusion of a realistic scene on the wall.

History of mural painting techniques

Fresco paintings are the earliest method used. It came from Italy and came from the word fresh. There are two categories of the art. Fresco is whereby you apply paint on plaster on the walls and ceilings whereas the Buon fresco technique, you paint in pigment and mix it with water on thin wet, lime layer of mortar or plaster. The wet plaster and the dye mix, and when it is dry, the reaction with air glues in place the particles of the pigment.

Fresco Decoration Pictorial Mexico Mural Cancun

Once the process is complete, the painting can last centuries with the pictures looking fresh, and the color is brilliant. Fresco painting is on dry plaster, and therefore the pigment needs a medium like glue, oil, or egg that will fix the pigment to the wall.

Mezzo fresco is another technique that paints on almost dry plaster and came to be in the 16th century by Ignazio Pozzo. The pigment will drive into the plaster lightly and give impeccable murals. The mezzo fresco style of painting considerably took over the Buon fresco method.

Materials used in mural painting

Over the centuries, different materials have been in use for wall painting and the evolution of the techniques has also seen to the change in the materials. The earliest known is the tempera painting which then gave way to oil painting in the 16th century.

Paintings once complete in the old days did not have any protection from sun rays. As the materials and times change, the application of varnish and protective acrylic has taken shape to guard the murals against UV sun rays.

The use of POP clay is what young muralists are using. They mix it with glue to make them even more durable. When the clay dries, you then paint with the colors you want and even apply varnish for protection.

Technology has taken its place in the mural painting. Digital techniques are now taking shape in a mural painting like wall scape. Mural painting has been in constant evolution over the years, and it continues to evolve to incorporate the use of modern materials and pictures.

Advantages of murals

Murals are imperative in the world of art and the contemporary world because they bring art to the public and make people more aware of art. Murals are expensive and take a significant amount of time that is why for a painting to be put up, there has to be a sponsor who is funding the project.

Murals are also a communication tool. You can use a wall painting to communicate the message that you wish the public to know. The size of the painting will attract the attention of the public which makes it an effective way of communicating a message.

Murals affect the attitudes of the people passing by them. Everyone gets their understanding of the painting, and they therefore add aesthetic value to the areas that they are put up. They can be a tourist attraction that brings improvement to the areas.

Murals can also be used as landscapes, especially because they are vast and hard to miss paintings. Every painting is unique, and it’s hard to mistake one for the other. Murals are a way of expression for the muralists. It is their way of speaking to people and the world. They command the attention of the people and leave their mark in the area for centuries to come

Murals are continually coming up, and most people are now aware of the existence of paintings, their artistic value and their significance in the community. They take time and patience to put up and with modern technology taking over, the evolution of muralism is even faster than before.