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Sistine Chapel

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The Last Judgment

All images on the judgment until that time had God at the centre with angels and  saints   arranged in horizonal lines. Michaelangelo started an artistic revolution by developing his picture along perpendicular axes. On the white wall the figures seem to rotate around a circle of figures without rules.

The scene begins on the left with the blessed rise to the heaven. God is in the centre but looks like Christ the judge. His position is the same as the Apollo of the Belvedere, the famous statue found in the Vatican and imitated throughout the entire Renaissance . His hand moves the whole  scene, letting the dammed fall towards hell and helps the blessed towards heaven.

The Last Judgment of the  Sistine Chapel has nothing to do with the anatomy lessons of the sea.Here the naked bodies of the dammed no longer have noble and composed bodies – instead they are gawky and muddy as they  scream and scramble. They are almost caricatures of all that is negative in the human condition. If you concentrate on the scene you can almost hear the screams of pain and the noise of the souls rushing to their own destinies, and the trumpets that announce the end times.

Only in the  centre does the scene seem suspended in an unreal silence. Even the saints and martyrs that all turn towards Christ are anxious and terrified as they wait for the final verdict to be pronounced.

Even the Madonna is timid and resigned at his side.

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Some of the blessed kiss each other and hug one another with enormous relief.

Up above, outside the circular movement, angels almost threateningly carry the cross and the symbols of the passion.

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Christ the judge is wrapped in a blinding light. Nonetheless both the dammed and the blessed cant help but look towards him.

In the last judgment the images do not all have the same perspective. The figures of the dammed and the blessed are randomly distanced, leaving the blue spaces. Every corner of the fresco is intimately detailed giving care to the tiniest detail. Some of the saints are  easily recognisable as they hold the symbol of their story or martyrdom in their hands. St Peter, on Jesus’ right, holds the  2 keys. St Lawrence holds the grape and St Sebastian kneels holding the arrows with which he was martryed.

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One of the most famous images is St Bartholomew, who died skinned alive. The saint, seated on a cloud, is painted as Piedro Aretino, the Tuscan poet who has dared to criticise nudity. Most celebrated is the skin held in his hand in which, Michaelangelo put his self portrait.  In fact, in the height of the work the artist truly felt skinned alive by the constant criticisms.

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On the lower right, the angels of the apocalypse sound their trumpets with every breath in their body – bursting their cheeks to wake the dead .

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Angels and demons let the pitiless desperate fall into hell.

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As you gaze downwards, the  scenes become more and more terrible, until you arrive at Karen  who beats the souls away from his boat with an oar and sends them off towards minus, the judge of hell , wrapped in a serpent . The figure of minus,  apart from being recongnized as the Popes master of ceremonies, was also identified with Pierre Luigi Farmesi, son of Pope Paul the third of rome, who was known for acts of violence and sodomy.

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On the left, according to the theory of the resurrection of the flesh, the reborn rise into heaven getting their bodies back.

The Sistine Chapel

The Chapel was completed in 1481 & it was the brainchild of pope Sixtus IV (4TH) who really wanted a private chapel within the Vatican palace and also wanted a conclave or a space to elect new popes in. It is named after pope sixtus IV.

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Pope Sixtus IV (21 July 1414 – 12 August 1484), born Francesco della Rovere, was pope from 9 August 1471 to his death in 1484. His accomplishments as pope included the construction of the Sistine Chapel and the creation of the Vatican Archives. A patron of the arts, he brought together the group of artists who ushered the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpieces of the city's new artistic age.

Sixtus aided the Spanish Inquisition though he fought to prevent abuses therein, and he annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance. He was noted for his nepotism and was personally involved in the infamous Pazzi conspiracy.

He arranged some special artists Eg Botticelli and Ghirlandaio –(he taught 13 yo Michelangelo how to paint fresco) to paint the wall – as can be seen above the tapestries  - on the left there are scenes depicting the lift of moses and on the right scenes depicting the life of Christ.


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When Sixtus died, his nephew Julius II is elected pope, he called Michelangelo to paint the ceiling. From 1505 -08 Michelangelo along with 5 or 6 assistants he paints the 41 m ceiling.

Nine scenes from genesis are painted down the middle, and surrounded by the elaborate architectural, containing images of prophets and symbols and they were there to allude to the foretelling of Christ’s birth in Judeic and Pagan civilisations respectively. There are also images of Christ as well as inexplicable nude figures.  Left to right : in reverse order - 3  scenes of the life of Noah, then  3  scenes of the creation and  downfall of Adam and Eve,  then 3 scenes from creation itself.(ending with god separating  light from darkness. ) The original entry you would have gone left to right . He painted this in reverse order, but the newer scenes are crammed with figures and painted tightly.

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He then loosened up the brush as he went on as he may have felt the scenes were difficult to work out from the ground – looser at the end .

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The Birth of Adam

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