Current time:0:00Total duration:7:29
0 energy points
Video transcript
[Music] more than 20 years after the glandular finished painting the frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling he was asked to do another fresco this time on the altar wall and on the altar all Michelangelo painted the Last Judgement this is an old subject in art history from the New Testament from the book of Revelation it's not possible to overestimate how important this location is this is the high altar of the Sistine Chapel this is where the Pope led Mass and this is still the room where the College of Cardinals selects the next pope so Michelangelo paints Christ in the top center on either side of Christ our Saints and Old Testament figures but below Christ we have the separation of the Blessed from the Damned on Christ's left the Damned who are going to hell and on Christ's right the Blessed who are going to heaven there is no more dramatic no more powerful and image in the Catholic tradition this is the end of time and we see Christ as a powerful judge who's facing towards the Damned smiting them he seems to be pointing to the wounds that he received on the cross beside him is the Virgin Mary who Crouch is powerless she seems no longer to be able to intercede for mankind although she looks down towards the Blessed and seems to give over to Christ of the Damned on Christ's right the Blessed rise up to heaven from their graves they're pulled by angels who seem to assist them in their ascent to heaven and love these images because Michelangelo's bodies are so dense they're so powerful they're so muscular even the spirits that are being resurrected that they have to be lifted up with great effort and you can see one angel pulling up the blessed by a rosary that's right a couple is literally being helped to ascend to heaven on the strength of their prayer represented by the rosary beads directly below Christ we see angels bowing their it's awakening the dead from their graves look at those long golden trumpets and this is in the book of Revelation so it is made explicit here but those angels don't look very much like what we expect of angels they are clearly male and powerful their heads are too small for their bodies in blowing the trumpets they look almost as though they're going to explode with the power that that takes well they have to wake the dead and that's exactly what they're doing we can see crypts opening up we can see graves we can see these spirits that seem to emerge from the earth it's so unexpected the physicality that Michelangelo has rendered the spirits he would think that they would be incorporeal they would have no mass they would have no gravity they would have no way but the opposite is true here we feel the struggle the difficulty of saving those souls of bringing those souls into heaven there's no shying away from the body here it is typical of Michelangelo that there's this interest in the physicality of the body the musculature of the body and we see the emphasis on the body even more so perhaps on the right side with the Damned so we're on one side we see the Blessed rising up toward heaven on the opposite side we see the fires of hell and the Damned being delivered there they're being delivered on a boat and see the oarsmen this would be Charon his swinging his great or to kick them off and the demons are helping with their pitchforks and they're actually harvesting the new souls for hell it's pretty nasty scene yeah there are demons everywhere pulling the figures off the boat and into hell it's not just the demons that are doing their part it's also the angels just above the scene we can see the Damned who are being pushed down into hell they seem to be striving desperately to get out and they're being punched by angels who are above them the probably most arresting of all is the representation of a single figure he's got a devil that's pulling at him from below but it's his psychological intensity that has given him the nickname the damned man he seems to have just realized that he's going to spend eternity in hell and there are demons also wrapped around his legs pulling him down toward hell look at his face the hand is covering one eye as if he can't believe he can't bear to see his fade on the other hand his other eyes open wide as if this is the moment of recognition when we're look at this scene here in the Sistine Chapel we can look at Michelangelo's early work on the ceiling right above us where we see figures with bodies that are elegant and noble and have a sense of dignity but here on the altar wall in the scene of the Last Judgement the figures look intentionally ugly intentionally awkward their proportions are all wrong their heads are too small for their bodies their muscles look overdrawn and that's especially true of the representation of Christ we look at the size of that torso it's completely out of scale with his head and with his height and so Michelangelo is looking at the human body not in the way that I have in the high Renaissance that is as a reference back to the classical tradition and a kind of ideal proportion instead he's looking at the body as full of symbolic value he's willing to distort the body for the power of the painting itself right the religious message is key here and the body is in the service of that message in the intervening years the church has been challenged by Martin Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation this was a moment of great turmoil and as Michelangelo gets older his earlier optimism seems to have been replaced by a deep pessimism that might be best seen in the figure of Saint Catherine who holds a wheel which is her attributes and she was martyred on a wheel but he or she looks so ungainly and if we compare her to the beauty of Eve on the ceiling the difference in the way Michael indle is treating the body is clear another figure that represents the profound pessimism of this fresco can be seen just to the right and below Christ we see there a very large figure on a cloud nude who's looking up at Christ holding a knife in one hand and a skin in the other this is Saint Bartholomew who was martyred by having his skin removed while he was alive Saints are always identified by their attributes often by the instrument of their martyrdom and so here it makes sense that Barr found holds a knife but art historians noticed one curious decision by Michelangelo in the representation of Bartholomew the face that we see in a skin is actually a self-portrait by the artist so that means we must ask the question why would Michelangelo put his own face his own likeness on the skin of st. Bartholomew here in the middle between Christ the Savior and the damned man I'd worse than that our own who seems to be holding the skin ever so lightly as if his fingers might open and he might simply let it fall into the boat of Charon on its way to hell this seems to express Michelangelo's concern for the fate of his own soul something that we also see in his poetry from this period and in fact we can draw a diagonal line from the upper left from the cross in the lunette through the crown of thorns through Christ through the skin of Saint Bartholomew the damned man and then down to the fires of hell you