Friday, 6 March 2015

Pic of the Week . . . On This Day

A bit of Renaissance for you...

On this day in 1475, one of the greatest artists in history was born.  Michelangelo. Talented in many fields, including architecture, poetry and engineering, he is better recognised for his contributions as an artist and sculptor.  When reminded of the greats, my favourite has to Da Vinci, but you can't deny the brilliance of Michelangelo.  You only have to look at the Sistine Chapel in Rome to be reminded of that.

'The Last Judgement'
by Michelangelo
The ceiling alone took Michelangelo four years to complete, from 1508 to 1512, and stretches some 500 meters with over 300 figures.  But it's not the ceiling I've chosen for this week's Pic of the Week. Instead it's a section on the alter wall that contains a piece called 'The Last Judgement', which he worked on between 1536 to 1541.  It depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the rising of the dead as they are judged and consigned to either Heaven or Hell.

Apparently after its completion, the naked impressions of Christ and Mary were said to be sacrilegious and a campaign rose to either strip the whole piece from the wall or at least censor it.  This time round the plea was denied by the Pope, but soon after Michelangelo's death, nudity in religious art was condemned by the Council of Trent, and artist Daniele da Volterra was hired to cover-up the indecencies.  He even went as far as chiseling away and repainting part of Saint Catherine and Saint Blaise after it was observed their bodies were engaged in sexual intercourse.

I've not seen the Sistine Chapel in person but would love to one day pay it a visit, and not just to see the Sistine Chapel, but the other pieces that make Rome what it is today.

Anyway, there's a lot going on in the 'The Last Judgement' but there was one section that caught my eye.  The effigy of Christ is surrounded by saints, including that of Saint Bartholomew holding a drooping skin.  The likeness of this skin is said to be that of Michelangelo himself.  Whoever originally thought that, I don't know (and judging by this, I dread to think what the man actually looked like) but if it were true, it would be interesting to know why he decided to depict himself as a hollow, empty shell, so to speak...

Saint Bartholomew, 'The Last Judgement'
by Michelangelo


  1. I've been to the Sistine Chapel. Photos can't do it justice. My favorite work of Michelangelo was La Pieta, a sculpture of Mary holding the body of the crucified Jesus. What's most amazing about this work is that he finished it when he was only 24.

    It's fascinating to compare his early work with his later ones. You can see his process mature. In his youth, his attitude was hopeful and his work was polished (almost too much), but as he matured his work became bolder, seeking out the flaws and the truth of the human body and man's conscience.

    Art history was my secondary major, but my first love. :)

  2. I've seen pictures of La Pieta. It's very impressive. This whole arch of works starting out polished and then seeking the flaws and truths of the human body reminds me of Rembrandt and why he went bankrupt.

    I never studied art history, but as I've got older my interest in it has grown dramatically :)

  3. We shuffled through the Sistine hape to the accompaniment of fierce 'hushing' from an elderly lady. I presume she was some kind of attendant, but equally she could have been Michaelangelo's mother. If possible see the chapel first because otherwise you may get there already jaded by the sheer volume and wealth of the treasures and artwork packed into the Vatican museum.

    1. Michelangelo's mother...did make me chuckle. I'll bare this in mind when we finally get to go, thanks. I may get to meet Michelangelo's mother while I'm there too :)