italian art

Easter Greetings with Michelangelo

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Happy Easter greetings from BAU International Academy of Rome

In this period the Christian world is getting ready to celebrate the other most important step of Jesus Christ's life together with the nativity, which is his resurrection to the eternity of God, body and soul.

Not everybody knows that resurrection to the heavens with a new eternal body (not subject anymore to the corruption of death) is possible according to the Christian credo, for all human souls at the end of times, with the Last judgement. This topic has been represented by many artists, being the most controversial the fresco painted by Michelangelo in the XVI century.

Michelangelo’s Last Judgement covers the whole altar wall of the Sistine Chapel with a vortex of rising and descending human souls judged by Christ. It seems that here Michelangelo added his self-portrait in the empty envelope of the skin that hangs grotesquely from the hand of St. Bartholomew. (the saint who was skinned alive) revealing the depth of his concept of resurrection, which at the end of the day  needs “a change of skin” to gain the eternal life. 

On a preview visit with Pope Paul III, before the work was complete, his Master of Ceremonies Biagio Da Cesena criticized the many nude figures depicted by Michelangelo, and judged the fresco more appropriate for public baths and taverns, rather than for a papal chapel. Michelangelo at that point worked Cesena's face into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld, with donkey ears indicating the foolishness of his criticism, while his nudity is covered by a coiled snake. It is said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff joked that his jurisdiction did not extend to Hell, so the portrait would have to remain.

By the way, after the work was complete, Pope Paul III was pressured several times to alter if not entirely remove the Last Judgement from the wall of the Chapel, and this querelle continued until 1563, when finally after the decision of the Council of Trent and most probably after the death of Michelangelo, the genitalia in the fresco were painted over with drapery by Daniele da Volterra, who for this got the nickname "Il Braghettone", i.e. "the breeches maker"!

As a matter of fact after death resurrection of human body and soul into a new eternal body...is indeed a very hard topic to represent and explain. We can’t help but admiring after 500 years the art and the effort of Michelangelo to combine faith in the Christian hope of the body resurrection with the appreciation of the human beauty, which in the fragility of the body hides its divine power.

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