The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
|Courtesy of www.renaissanceart.org|
The piece begins directly underneath the ceiling's depiction of Jonas. Christ is shows as the axis for the composition and directs movement from the top of the piece. The Virgin Mary sits at his side and he is surrounded by saints and martyrs. The figures near the top of the painting appear larger by proportion than those of the lost souls below. These souls in turn rise and descend between the gates of hell and the realm between worlds.
Wingless angles assist some souls in rising up while terrifying clawed demons drag other souls down. The bottom of the painting depicts the gates of hell and sits right over the altar of the chapel. The effect of the scene of damnation behind the altar conveys the pessimism that had begun to pervade the Renaissance before the reformation. Michelangelo himself was reportedly plagued with thoughts of his own sin and longed for God's redemption. This was reflected in the torment and languish of the damned souls at the bottom of the piece.
The reception for this enormous fresco was groundbreaking. It's presentation below the work on the ceiling is evidence of Michelangelo's almost divine artistic hand.