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The Last Judgement | Michelangelo’s Masterpiece

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The painting represents the end of the world and the last judgment of Jesus Christ and contains around 300 characters. Christ, at the center of the composition, with his mother and surrounded by saints, is judging the dead. The Last Judgement takes on huge dimensions; the fresco depicts figures and scenes full of horror. Reflecting the artist’s representation, who was going through a painful crisis of faith at the time.

The Last Judgement fresco covers the east wall of the Sistine Chapel. When it was painted, it was the largest painting in the world. It was commissioned by Pope Paul III, Michelangelo’s greatest patron in his later years. And unveiled on 31 October 1541, 29 years after the artist’s ceiling frescoes were shown to the world.

Cardinal Carafa organizes a campaign (“The Vine Leaves Campaign”) to cover the genital parts of the saints. This campaign will take place after Michelangelo’s death.

How long did Michelangelo work on the Last Judgement?

Visits to homosexual bathhouses and brothels may have inspired Michelangelo. When he painted the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel, says an Italian historian.

Michelangelo worked for four years on the Last Judgement, the fresco that covers the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, where cardinals gather when a pope is elected. The Renaissance artist was accused of immorality and obscenity because the figures were nude, and several cardinals demanded at the time that intimate areas be covered with leaves to create a more biblical atmosphere.

It’s 500 years since Michelangelo Buonarroti signed the contract to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which until then was just a blue vault with a cluster of pale stars, in front of Pope Julius II.

When did Michelangelo paint The Last Judgement?

Twenty-seven years after the completion of the GENEVA, Michelangelo returns to Rome. To the Sistine Chapel. With a new contract, before Pope Paul III, he begins to paint the judgment scene.

In 1535, Michelangelo painted the Last Judgement and the great architect and sculptor. And also, the painter is 61 years old, with a different experience and outlook on life than when he was 31 when he painted the Sistine Chapel vault.

It is worth mentioning this detail because special events occurred in the Holy Roman Empire of the West during this period in Catholicism. Which profoundly marked the artist’s personality and is strongly reflected in the fresco of Judgement. Which seems more like an outburst of revenge. An unforgiving punishment, an eternal doom. An apocalypse.

Who is the judge in The Last Judgement?

It all started with Martin Luther, who, in 1517 passed his theses on the church door in Wittenberg. German Protestantism, Lutheranism, was born and spread with earthquake speed, shaking the rapacious Catholicism of Rome to its foundations. Martin Luther harshly criticized Catholic dogmas that had deviated from the original biblical teachings. He criticized the organisation of the Catholic Church, which had become extravagant and lavish. Still, above all, he condemned its trade in indulgences. Indulgences intrigued many Catholics and triggered the spread of Protestantism among the great mass of Christians with its consequences.

In the Final Judgement of Michelangelo, the Judge is Jesus, and all over this fresco 14 meters high and 12 meters wide, all those called for the Last Judgment are rolling contorted with sin and pain into hell. Not a trace of a throne of judgment, a scales of judgment, a path, a shadow to any Paradise. The Last Judgement, expressed visually by Michelangelo, looks like the unleashing of a new flood, an apocalyptic one.

Henceforth papal Catholicism began to lose many of its supporters, who became opponents, hostile, enemies of Rome by turning to Protestantism.

The Last Judgement

Who is next to Jesus in the Last Judgment picture?

The idea that each man must ultimately pass judgment on himself was indeed Michelangelo’s own – writes Andrew Graham-Dixon in his book Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. Earthly and human is this idea that every mortal must pass self-judgment in their lifetime, but for this self-judgment one needs faithful and honest parents, good and moral educators, discernment and personal determination.

In the Last Judgment painting, Mary, a virgin and diaphanous, stands next to Jesus, her face bowed, and her gaze turned away from the judge’s attitude, looking down to the left, where the risen from the dead are crumbling in terror in hell. And some, among connoisseurs of Michelangelo’s art, have interpreted Mary’s reaction as figuration, disregard, or even fear.

And yet, in this influential fresco of the final judgment of the Son of God. Which Michelangelo painted in the grip of the events that divided Catholicism. And led to the conquest and sack of Rome by the anti-papal forces by the followers of Lutheranism. He comes up with a unique, new idea of the Last Judgment. In addition to the seven angels with trumpets mentioned by St John in the Apocalypse, Michelangelo adds two more angels with an open book in his fresco. Each resurrected for judgment can read the facts of his life and judge himself.

Primary Takeaways

  • Michelangelo surrounds Jesus with angels and saints, among whom Saint Peter has two keys. Two keys! Next to it is the Apostle Bartholomew holding his own skin after his martyrdom, whose head is a self-portrait of the painter.
  • Another detail, much commented upon in kind, is the one in the lower right corner of the Inferno in which Biagio da Cesena, Pope Paul III’s master of ceremonies, harshly criticized Michelangelo for this fresco, is portrayed.
  • Michelangelo took revenge on Biagio da Cesena by placing him in Hell by entangling him with a snake that bit his genitals.


Michelangelo Buonarroti was, next to Leonardo da Vinci, the most influential artist at the height of the Italian Renaissance. 

In 1535 Michelangelo began painting ‘The Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel on the wall above the altar. The artist started with Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ and was able to render an impressive anthology of scenes. The fresco at the base depicts the dead sent after the Apocalypse and the Inferno. They were represented by Caron’s boat, which transports souls. And Minos, who judges souls.

In the middle fresco, you can see the angels with the instruments of judgment. The souls are going to Heaven, and those descending into Hell. And on the upper fresco Christ the Judge. And also the Virgin Mary, surrounded by those who have reached the Kingdom of Heaven.