The Sistine Chapel | Its history and paintings of lateral walls, dome and front › Art History

Evolution of the art through the History › Megaposts

About the History of Art:

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There is a work of art so famous in the world as the Sistine Chapel. Associated forever to the frescoes in the dome and Miguel Ángel, the Sistine front welcomes also works on the side walls of Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino. We narraremos here the history and vicissitudes of this work, starting with the decoration of the chapel before the Florentine artist.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the broad group of companies artistic carried out in Rome by Pope Sixto IV, of the family della Rovere, during his pontificate (1471-1484). Sixtus IV, man of great culture and protector of the arts and Sciences, ushered back into the papal court to the influence of the humanists who had almost disappeared under the papacy of Paulo II.
Sixtus IV undertook major urban transformations in Rome aimed to restore the city. During his pontificate were built the main churches of the Quattrocento in Rome, Santa María de el Pópolo and Santa Maria della Pace. His initiative was also the construction of the Santo Spirito Hospital, near the Vatican. Despite all these achievements, the prestige of Sixto IV as a promoter of the arts is mainly due to the construction of the Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican palaces of Rome.
This building was built on the site of a former chapel named Chapel Magna, which took advantage of some parts in the construction of the current. Work began in 1473 and were finished in 1481, year in which began the iconographic and decorative programme of the paintings in its interior.
Diagram of the decoration of the walls of the Sistine Chapel.
Because of its liturgical requirements, the Sistine Chapel develops a 40 m long rectangular space 13 m. wide, covered by a vault with lunettes built on windows for easy lighting. The building, compact and essential volumes, constitutes, in the framework of the Italian architecture of the 15TH century, a remarkable construction by the harmonic and unitary conception of its interior space and the exterior of a fortified enclosure.
All these artistic companies carried out by Sixto IV are the exponent of something more than a passionate interest in the arts. In these programs you can see one of the aspects that defined and determined the activity of patrons and artistic promoters of the Renaissance: new uses and applications of the work of art and its value as an undoubted instrument of affirmation.
Della Rovere Pope programs were due to the need to establish, through programmes of rehabilitation and recovery of the ancient grandeur of Rome, an image of prestige of the papacy.
 Perugino and Pinturicchio. Baptism of Christ. North wall.
Sandro Botticelli. Temptations of Christ. North wall.
Before proceeding, it is necessary to clarify the political situation at the time. Sixtus IV, in addition to imposing spiritual power that held, exerted a great temporal power as sovereign of the Papal States, and as such, was involved in the complexity of the political life of the 15TH century. In Italy struggles, the Pope chose is in favour of the King of Naploles against the Medici of Florence.
In the plot of 1478 he supported the Pazzi against the Medici family. But the Pope, once restored peace with Lorenzo the magnificent, requested the help of Florentine painters for the decoration of the renovated Sistine Chapel and in 1481, Lorenzo Médici sent Tuscan artists to work in the decoration of the Chapel: Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Signorelli... Is is of a clear exponent of the employment of the art as instrument diplomatic and persuasive and of their use as weapon policy and of prestige.
Domenico Ghirlandaio. Vocation of the first apostles. North wall.
Cosimo Roselli. Sermon on the mountain and miracles. North wall.
Despite its value as architectural work, the importance of the Sistine Chapel in the history of art is due to the relevance of the cycles of paintings that were inside. Different circumstances made that during the centuries XV and XVI, Sistine Chapel became the scenario in which were some of the most important frescoes of the story of the painting cycles. The successive series of paintings were able to transform a stay, marked by a pronounced constructive simplicity, in support of a pictorial condensation of images without precedent in the history of painting.
The pictorial decoration of the chapel extends by the side walls and the front and the dome. In different compositions and cycles of the Sistine Chapel there are stylistic differences and a very marked formal diversity, while it prevents the final result to be the image of a coherent and unitary route.
In first place, are painted the two walls side by those painters Florentine, with scenes of the old and New Testament. After this cycle, the chapel was object of other two interventions relevant. The first consisted in the execution of the decoration of the vault and lunettes, between 1509 and 1512, by Miguel Ángel. The second was the monumental composition dedicated to the last judgment, made years later by the same artist (1537-1541), at the front of the Chapel, where was the assumption of Perugino.
Pietro Perugino. Delivers the keys to St. Peter. North wall.
 Cosimo Rosselli. Last supper. North wall.
Hendrik van der Boer. Resurrection of Christ. North wall. 1572 (on the same subject by Ghirlandaio, destriudo to the fall of the lintel of the door).
The decorated in the Sistine Chapel under Pope Sixto IV were the paintings from the walls, as shown in an engraving by Ugo Tognazi between 1488 and 1508. This print shows that the vault, then painted by Miguel Ángel, was painted with the representation of a firmament with stars arranged in concentric circles by Amelia Piermatteo in 1481.
He body lower of those walls is had represented in boxes framed by pilasters with decoration of reasons to candelieri (ornaments symmetrical of reasons classic willing to the way of a candlestick). In each compartment was staged a mock hanging curtains decoration, forming an illusionistic effect which established a link between the fiction created by the painting and the tangible reality of the stay. On this first body of scenographic effect and coinciding with the dimensions of the boxes is delimited as many to the compositions of this first cycle of paintings.
The different compositions develop a program aimed to demonstrate the parallelism and the concordance between the old and the New Testament. This program consists of six scenes on each side; the one on the left correspond to the Old Testament and the life of Moses, while that of the right to life of Christ, i.e., the New Testament. On these compositions is represented, in niches with form of venerated, a series of twenty-eight figures of potatoes martyrs, understood as a gallery of men illustrious defenders of the faith and of the value of the two wills. The topics represented in the side walls are as follows:
 Pietro Perugino and assistants. Return of Moses to Egypt and circumcision of Eleazar. South wall.
Sandro Botticelli and workshop. Events in the life of Moses. South wall.
(A) left = Old Testament.
-Circumcision of the son of Moses. Perugino and Pinturicchio.
-Temptations of Moses. Botticelli.
-Step of the sea red. Ghirlandaio.
-Moses receives the law boards. Rosselli
-Punishment of the rebels. Botticelli.
-Death of Moses. Signorelli.
(B) right = New Testament.
-Baptism of Christ.
-Temptations of Christ.
-Vocation of the aposteles. Ghirlandaio.
-Sermon on the mount. Roselli and Piero di Cosimo.
-Delivery of the keys. Perugino.
-Last supper. Rosselli.
Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli. Passage of the Red Sea. South wall.
 Cosimo Rosselli and Piero di Cosimo. Facts of Moses after the descent of the Sinai. South wall.
The provision of these paintings derives of the wide e intense tradition decorative of the painting to the fresh Italian according to which each composition is distributes in a text box, ordering is by records overlapping or, as this case, in one only continuous. Thus, the compositions appear to the way of pictures transferred to the wall or as tapestries willing about it. Actually, the paintings made in this first stage are a synthesis of the experiences and themes that focused the inquiry of them painters of the Quattrocento. Thus, different compositions shows a tendency to highlight the narrative values of representation, the perspective of the scenarios games value harmonious and symmetrical compositions, the proportion of their components and granted attention to the representation of monuments and ruins of the old.
For example, the composition of Sandro Botticelli, "The punishment of the rebels", takes place in a scenario made according to the formulas of representation perspective with a broad reference to ruins and classical buildings like the Arch of Constantine in Rome, appearing to the Fund focus composition. It's a representation of antiquarian pointed character antiques, which contrasts with the scenery of "The temptation of Christ" and "The sacrifice of the leper", performed by the same artist, evocative character and less detailed.
 Sandro Botticelli. Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. South wall.
 Lucca Signorelli and helpers. Testament and death of Moses. South wall.
In the different compositions of the series, the iconography was an element determinant of those scenarios. It most are representations themed in a landscape, as "Moses receiving the tables of the law", made by Cosimo Rosselli, "the circumcision of the son of Moses" of Bernardino Pinturicchio or "the vocation of San Pedro and San Andres", of Ghirlandaio. But others demanded the representation of the scene in the manner of a theatrical scenery space cube. "The last supper", Rosselli, shows this spatial concept which makes the composition in the fiction of an open window to a representation.
The decoration of the vault by Miguel Ángel was a clear confrontation with the tempered principles the classicism of the previous series of side walls. The vault paintings overshadows the ordinates and regular compositions of the walls of the Chapel, turning them into a transitional and complementary element. But, in addition, in the whole of the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, the last judgment is the arrival of final stage of the evolution of an artist in constant evolution and improvement of itself. The three cycles of paintings represent different ways of conceiving the painting and completely different systems to understand the application of painting frescos and architecture. We started with the first decoration of the chapel.
It framing of them compositions already not is the frame of the same but the representation environmental of an architecture that is confused with the reality. The scenes are represented as if they took place in a loggia that stay open. But this is already treated in the following entry.
 Matteo da Lecce.Disputa by the body of San Mateo. South wall. 1574 (on the same subject of Lucca Signorelli, destroyed after the collapse of the lintel of the door).
Taken from: Victor Nieto warden: "Sistine Chapel. So he painted". Discover the art magazine. Number 2. April 1999.
-LLORENS, Thomas: "Michelangelo". History 16. Madrid, 1994.
-GRANDSON ALCAIDE, Victor: "the art of the Renaissance". Col. know art, 7. History 16. Madrid, 1996.
-PARTRIDGE, l., MANCINELLI, f. and COLALUCCI, g.: "the Final judgment. The work and restoration". Nerea. Madrid, 1998.
-TOLNAY, Carles de: "Michelangelo, sculptor, painter and architect". Alliance Ed. Madrid, 1985.
VV..: "the Sistine Chapel. A historical restoration". Nerea. Madrid 1995.
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Creation of Eve
In less than four years (1508-1512), Michelangelo painted, mostly solitary, a vault of thousand square meters with three hundred figures full of color and tension. It is today regarded as the Summit of universal painting.
After the first series of paint applied on the walls of the Chapel, the Pope Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere) Miguel Ángel commissioned the decoration of the vault, your eardrums on windows, the lunettes and the pendentives of the angles. Three cycles of wall paintings of the Chapel, this was the most ambitious and larger. Despite the scale of the work, in which are represented three hundred figures, Miguel Ángel carried out the work in a short period of time, between may 1508, that signs the contract, and October 1512, which gives the work finished. At the same time that was painted the vault of the Sistine Chapel, Rafael started the decoration of the Vatican stays, which completed the paintings by Julio II program and become a privileged pictorial Center in Rome.

Miguel Angel, when received the custom official of make these paintings was a young sculptor of 33 years that already had with a remarkable reputation and large works ("Madonna della scala", "Baco", "mercy", "Virgin of witches" and the "David"). However, the larger work was the grave that Julio II commissioned in 1505 and that would become a nightmare for the sculptor and, ultimately, without concluding. Changes project, interruptions and numerous adventures made this work for the Florentine tragedy. One of the orders that distracted and stopped the execution of the grave was the decoration of the vault of the Sistine Chapel.
When Miguel Ángel was commissioned to paint the vault of the Sistine Chapel as painter was much less relevant than the sculptor. However, some raids in the field of the painting, as the Tondo Doni (Gallery degli Uffizi, Florence, 1504-06), constitute a contribution singular in which are are running numerous components of its activity pictorial later.
The practice of various artistic specialties made by Miguel Ángel, who later would carry out important work as an architect, explained according to their training. The Florentine artists, since the Foundation of all artistic expression was in drawing, could make forays into different specialties.

Rafael Sanzio. Portrait of Pope Julio II. Oil on canvas. 1511-1512 National Gallery. London.
The painting of the vault of the Sistine was made by Miguel Angel in solo or with some contributors that would make some parts subject by full to them guidelines of the master. According to has Vasari, certain helpers, whose collaboration requested Miguel Angel to the begin the work, were dismissed immediately by the master before his inability to follow its conception of them fresh. Hence the great effect of formal and stylistic unity and the entire plot coherence.
Upon receiving the assignment, Miguel Ángel started to perform the preparatory drawings for the different figures and compositions. Given the scale of the work and the number of figures in the set, the Florentine had to carry out an impressive number of preparatory drawings that little more than fifty has come to us. It should take into account that the dome measuring 36 metres long and 13 metres of width.
There is no unanimity about the order followed by Miguel Ángel in the execution of the frescoes, although it seems most likely, according to different proposals made by historians, that Miguel Ángel run the cycle by transversal sections involving the Central stories, ignudi, prophets, sibyls and figures in the lunettes. When these paintings, the artist would perform the series of figures of the eardrums. It simulated ten transverse arches which enabled him to divide the reduced barrel vault in nine successive sections crossed by two fake cornices that produce the partition in three registers. Houses nine stories of Genesis, ranging from separation of light and darkness, on the altar, to the drunkenness of Noah, though he painted them in reverse order, because he started on the front door.


Until recently the issue of the technique used was a controversial and unresolved issue. Against the assumptions that the vault paintings had been carried out in the temple on a fresh basis, the recent restoration has been shown how Miguel Ángel used for the execution of the paintings classic good hidden fresco, before cleaning procedures, by layers of paint and dirt.
Initially, the program of the paintings is projected with a scope much more limited and modest. Initially arose only decorate the vault, but very soon, Miguel Ángel, with permission from Julio II, decided to extend the decoration until the startup of the vault. The initial idea of a decoration of the vault and figures of Apostles was abandoned and proceeded to run a much more comprehensive, coherent and systematic iconographic cycle.
It has been assumed that the final program was due to a decision which corresponded exclusively to the artist, who is based in the Bible as the sole source of inspiration. However, not be ruled out that the foundations of the new program were imposed on the artist. The truth is that the distribution of the different themes of the paintings presents a complex Web of meanings.
Miguel Ángel was found to be conditioned by the iconography of frescos in the 15TH century in which is expressed the idea of the "concordatio" between the old and the New Testament, with passages from the story of Moses in the wall of the left and of Jesus Christ in the right, i.e., the history of humanity before and after the laws. Therefore, Miguel Ángel only a representation of humanity could be him before legem. I.e., the exaltation of destiny and the steps of humanity prior to the revelation, that Miguel Ángel rushed from a neoplatonic conception of human existence.

Libyan and Delphic sybils

From the beginning, the initial problem was how to undertake the provision and different compositions and figures. The first novelty offered by the frescoes of the vault with respect to the side walls is the different conception of the framing and the relationship of painting to architecture. In the first programme, the Quattrocento painters followed the form of the framing of the conventional divide the wall into squares and project the compositions in the manner of pictures to the wall. Miguel Ángel abandoned this system creating an architectural framing, breaking the boundaries of the dome, pretending an elevation higher than the real. Of this way, Miguel Angel distributed them paintings in various records: some real, derivatives of the architecture of the stay, and, others, pretended, designed by the painter.
The first body is formed by the eardrums that framed the auction semicircular of them windows crowning the flat vertical of the wall. He set initial was formed by them six eardrums of each cloth greater and them two of each one of the sides under of the chapel. Two of the latter would be subsequently deleted years later by the own painter when he rushed the painting of the last judgement in the end.
The characters of the eardrums, as in the lunettes and Spandrels, found in the lower register of paintings by Miguel Ángel and represent the flow of humanity in a dimension that is subjected to the stresses of human existence prior to spiritual enlightenment. Miguel Ángel painted figures of opposing backs including plates, located on the windows, with the name of the different characters representing the human genealogy of Christ up to Abraham to your eardrums.
The reading of them characters of them eardrums should do is altering them of a tympanum of the wall of the right with another of the left following the order of them compositions of the body lower painted during the century XV. The following series is formed by the figures of the eight lunettes on the tympana of windows in the walls of the Chapel, and the four pendentives of angles with representation of Judith and Holofernes, David and Goliath, the brazen Serpent and the punishment of Haman.

Detail of the prophet Zechariah

Starting from here, Miguel Angel created a framing architectural pretended. In this sense, should notice is how Miguel Angel established this division in line with the sense hierarchical of the different levels of the composition. For the reference to the humanity previous to the revelation has used the space defined by elements architectural real, such as the eardrums and them lunettes. The blind (prophets and sibyls) appear in a stage pretended that configures a space ideal located between two elements architectural real, them lunettes. The divine exaltation, has instead been represented in the field of stage design created through the sublimation of a pretended architectural space that transcends reality.
The figures of prophets and sibyls, located between the lunettes appear in staggered spaces, by way of a fictitious wall that extends the walls of the chapel. These figures are framed by pedestals with figures of ninos-atlantes / caryatids, which replace the capitals of the pillars supporting the entablature. This fake wall produces an alternative of outgoing and incoming pace around the central space. The prophets and sibyls are seated and placed on a pedestal under which appears a tenante with a cartouche with the name of the seven prophets: Zechariah, Joel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jeremiah and Jonah, and the five sibyls of classical tradition: Delphic Sibyl, Sybil Eritrea, Sybil Cumea, Persian Sibyl and Libica Sibyl. These figures, accompanied by naked youngsters, have been captured on one larger scale than the figures of the eardrums and the lunettes. They represent human characters who, like the prophets, possess full supernatural powers to contemplate the divine spirit, or have them to one lesser extent, as the sibyls, due to their pagan condition.
The entablature that hold the ninos-atlantes borders throughout the dome. On the entablature, sitting and in position faced, Miguel Angel has represented ten couples of ignudi (nudes), among which appear figurative medallions of bronze with different compositions biblical.

 Triangles with images of Hezekiah and Rehoboam with Abies and Lunette with Anselmi and Eliud.

The ignudi, belonging to the second level where are the prophets and the sibyls, and indicators of the harbinger of revelation, determine ascending level limit before entering the sphere of the sacred scenes. But regardless of its meaning, they constitute an affirmation of tune of the pagan with the Christian culture of the artistic achievements of Julio II. The ignudi function is not clear, although they are a crucial element in the overall concept of the work and represent the Renaissance concept of man as a measure of all things. The leaves and acorns from oak that holds an ignudi allude to the family Della Rovere, to which belonged the own Julio II Pope, whose coat of arms shows the oak. Also the tree of good and evil in the scene of the fall is an oak tree.
In the center of the dome, with an architectural framing that it pretends a raised dome and taking advantage of the semi-cylindrical form of the covering of the Chapel, are nine compositions of Genesis in different formats according to your location. Which are found in the spaces between the pairs of ignudi (the separation of light and darkness, the separation of the waters and the firmament, the creation of Eve, the sacrifice of Noah and the drunkenness of Noah) are lower than those that are aligned with sections that take up the entire space between the pretended entablatures : The creation of the heavenly bodies, the creation of Adam, original sin and the flood.

The drunkenness of Noah.
The great flood

To project the cycle of paintings of the dome, the distribution of the compositions in the 15TH century had a decisive role. Since the cycle of side walls started along the top of the altar and extending toward the door, Miguel Ángel had to start the iconographic program by the Fund of the chapel. As well, we will see how the biblical scenes of the dome start with this part of the chapel. On the other hand, given that the chapel was divided into two areas, the presbytery and the secular area, Miguel Ángel represented on the first compositions of the Genesis concerning creation:
-The separation of light and darkness
-The creation of the stars
-The separation of the waters
-The creation of Adam
-The creation of Eve
He then distributed over the secular area to sin and its consequences:
-Original sin
-The sacrifice of Noah
-The flood
-The drunkenness of Noah

The sacrifice of Noah
Fall of the man, Sin original and expulsion of the paradise.

So many them figures and compositions, integrated in them enmarcamientos of an architecture real (eardrums, lunettes and pendentives), as which are framed by an architecture feigned (sibyls and prophets, ignudi and scenes Biblical) raised the problem of a distribution according the demands of reading and perception of the joint. The distribution of figures and scenes was organized according to a reading required to follow a route which runs around the wall to perceive the figures in the lunettes, sibyls and prophets and ignudi and the representations of medallions located between them, to continue with the reading of the Central compositions, by the axis of the Chapel, from the wall that is the final judgment of the access.
The figures of the eardrums and the lunettes, the whole of the children-Atlanteans/caryatids supporting the entablature, the number of sibyls and prophets and the owners of the plates, figurative bronze in the Spandrels of the vault, and the outstanding group of the ignudi nudes are different serial units which develops an experimentation around the principles of variation sequence and contrast of a same theme. This is due to that for the implementation of some of the couples in ignudi Miguel Ángel use the same carton applying it by both sides as a method to represent opposed a same model.
Miguel Ángel, against the normative classicism of a Leonardo, departed for the overcoming of the idea of immutable unit raised the idea that the object is a notion of the infinite variety of models. Compared the value of the ideal blueprint, the Florentine contrasts the value of diversity and disparity through a variable seriality. It is opposite the one multiplicity and the rejection of the value of immutability, based on the cult of appearances. Hence them models of Miguel Angel Express, by the contrary, an effect of transience and instability, of the passing of the time and of that nothing is fixed and permanent.

Creation of Adam

In the vault of the Sistine Chapel paintings develops a constant tension between figure and framing and feigned architecture and the real. The figures in the lunettes appear compressed between them and the same happens with the prophets and the sibyls, represented with enforced attitudes that create a tension in the horizontal direction with the walls of the niches which house them, opposed to that, scrolling, the ninos-atlantes show that they support the entablature. The compressed form of these figures, contrasts with the instability and the ignudi, seated on pedestals in dynamic attitudes that seem to suggest a State prior to its fall to the vacuum.
The broken line of the entablature describing a discontinuous inbound and outbound rate, with figures of prophets and sibyls at the bottom and the ignudi on the top, is the area that the whole compositional tension is concentrated. It is the core which starts the fiction of a body raised that alters the visual effect of the vault, introducing a tense effect and unease, which does not regain its balance to the feigned vault of the central space. Miguel Angel has devised the joint as the expression of a game continuous of tensions among them figures, the compositions, it architecture real and the feigned. A disturbing and dynamic effect which is accentuated with the movement of the spectator and, above all, by the fact that the painter not projected dome decoration subjecting the perspective of the composition to a unitary system and a single point. By the contrary, is is of an accumulation of points of perspective of the different compositions and figures that create a scenario multifocal.

The separation of the waters
 The creation of the stars

All these effects were achieved through the game's resources figurative and perspective. But, together with them, Miguel Ángel applied a new concept of color that accentuates the whole plastic tension. The cleaning of the colors in the recent restoration of the Sistine Chapel has become manifest how paintings Miguel Ángel undertook a renovation of the uses of colour in clear contrast with the harmonic intonations of classicism from around the year 1500.
For Miguel Ángel the color becomes a means of expression, virulent and unsettling, understood as an autonomous value of the painting. Miguel Ángel dispenses with the idea of unity of color of the set to apply a chromatic contrast that underscores the drama and tension of the compositions more forcefully. The "Terribilitá" by Miguel Ángel did not occur only for forced and pathetic expression of figures, gestures, postures and attitudes and the violation of the classical principles of proportion, but also a new way of using the drawing and color.
Drawing, applied with great security, introduces an effect of discontinuity in the outlines, as shown, for example, in the figures of Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise; color introduces the effect of instability. For Miguel Ángel, the color is not the consequence of a universal harmony of the components of the painting, but an element of contrast and contrast of opposites that stimulates and disturbs the classical notion of order. As Miguel Ángel consciously violates the game of classic proportions, with color creates the expression of a universe live, full of contradictions and dissonances.
Confrontation and tension. The figure of Dios Padre, suspended in the air in a dynamic pose, and the reclining body and abandoned in land of Adam, from the creation of Adam, sublimated expression of this idea in the formal as opposed to the contrast of the natural world are added and the Earth that has a contact point in the creation of man.

Separation of light

Ultimately, the innovations that brought Miguel Ángel in this work are great: novelty and grandeur of the set, the full study of the human figure in anatomy and expression, variety and compositional wisdom, are the perspective, the drawing power of mastery, framing and simulation total dare conferred by its special provision a special tension and drama of the colossal architectural which envelops the viewer and includes it in the dynamism of the triggered forces. It is a true and dazzling hymn to the naked body.

In this link you can see a virtual recreation of the Sistine Chapel.

Article based on: Victor Nieto warden: "Chapel Sistine." "Miguel Angel and the paintings of the dome". Magazine discover the art. Number 3. Mayo 1999.

-LLORENS, Thomas: "Michelangelo". History 16. Madrid, 1994.
-GRANDSON ALCAIDE, Victor: "the art of the Renaissance". Col. learn the art, 7. History 16. Madrid, 1996.
-PARTRIDGE, l., MANCINELLI, f. and COLALUCCI, g.: "the Final judgment. The work and restoration"." Nerea. Madrid, 1998.
-TOLNAY, Carles de: "Michelangelo, sculptor, painter and architect". Alliance Ed. Madrid, 1985.
VV..: "the Sistine Chapel. A historical restoration". Nerea. Madrid 1995.

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When he was already sixty years, Miguel Ángel returns to the Sistine Chapel to face, again alone, before a wall where you are asked to represent the last judgment, work that will make you forever become a myth. At the end of Miguel Ángel paintings of the vault of the Sistine Chapel was far to imagine that years later would deal with other great artistic company in the walls of the same Chapel.
Before the execution of this painting, the same as in the decoration of the dome, existed a first draft of much smaller dimensions. During the pontificate of Pope Clement VII was proposed to the Florentine painter the realization of a small painting, dedicated to the resurrection of Christ, to decorate a wall under the stay and which are preserved various preparatory drawings.
The death of Clement VII in 1534 faded the possibility of implementation of this project. However, his successor, Paul III returned to the idea of a great composition with representation of the last judgment. And, although not there is certainty of when is began them first agreements, it true is that the 16 of April of 1535 is began the construction of them scaffolding and that, a years after, the wall is was prepared to start them works. On September 1, 1535, the new Pontiff appointed Miguel Ángel painter, sculptor and architect of the Vatican Palace.
Between the conclusion of the paintings of the vault of the Sistine Chapel and the beginning of the last judgement, Miguel Ángel had developed an important series of works of sculpture as the continuation of the mausoleum of Julius II and the tombs of San Lorenzo, Florence, Medici, which shows an evolution, experienced in the field of sculpture with respect to naked models developed in the decoration of the vault. Puncture of the last judgment, in which worked the Florentine until November 1541, means the start of the final stage of the career of the artist in Rome until his death in 1564. It is time that the great master becomes reference and the myth of having achieved the utmost perfection of the ideal of beauty and the culmination of the art of all times.


The painting of the last judgement was projected to cover the back of the chapel wall until the startup of the vault. Initially Miguel Ángel thought respect there preserved, paintings that would have led him to a compartmentalized distribution of traditional paintings. The truth is that he abandoned this idea and projected a composition that occupied the whole of the wall. Before beginning the assignment, Miguel Ángel had to accomplish all of the front for his painting. For this had that delete two windows blinded, destroy the shield of arms of them Della Rovere and several paintings of Perugino as the assumption, to which was dedicated the Chapel and that was sent paint by Sixto IV, as well as two compositions located enzymes of this, that represented the birth of Christ and Moses saved of them waters. Miguel Ángel, also had to destroy two compositions by the artist himself years earlier when it undertook the decoration of the vault, specifically two tympana, which topped the front wall and containing representations of the Fares, Esrom, and Aram, one and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judas, on the other.
The destruction of these paintings was an inevitable requirement to make a great decoration on the wall of the front, though the Suppression of representations of characters from the old testament of the eardrums and compositions with the birth of Christ and Moses saved from the waters, extend important parts of the pre-existing iconographic cycles and the reference of the consecration of the chapel at La Asunción. The reason for this decision has sought in the artistic conception that presides over the work and the desire to conceive it as a coherent whole, endowed with a rigorous thematic and compositional unit. Miguel Ángel, once obtained all of the wall, the transformed, depriving it of its status as closing, creating the fiction of a sky that creates a huge open stage.
The transformation experienced by Miguel Ángel on the way to conceive the composition of fresco on the vault paintings could not be more eloquent. In the last judgement the artist dispenses with the scenographic effects of architectures used in the decoration of the vault to condense the tension on the counterpoint between figure and space, or better said, between space and the concentrations of figures who take different nuclei. You can tell that the prevailing balance between the Christian argument and pagan classicism of the compositions in the vault is broken in favor of expressive and anguished poignancy.

In the artistic evolution of Miguel Ángel, the last judgment means the start of a radical break with the classical conceptions of art, which will reach a projection limit on the sculptures of this final stage, as the piety of the Cathedral of Florence, in 1550-55, in which the artist initiates a dismissing path of submission and respect for the rule and which will have its maximum expression in the piety of Palestrina (Accademia Gallery (, Florence) and, above all, his second season piety Rondanini (Sforza castle, Milan).

This change in the sensitivity of Miguel Ángel with regard to his previous painting was not exclusively an evolution of its character as a result. One aspect that had a decisive impact in this new orientation of the artist was the subject of paintings. The trial end, although was a theme widely developed by the iconography pre-existing, allowed a development monumental in which were inherent the representation of effects pathetic. However, in the painting of Miguel Angel, the drama reaches some fees insurmountable through the expression that provides its sense of the Terribilitá. Up to the point of that this effect develops a real inflection of the iconography conventional of the theme.
The ideological and spiritual context surrounding the execution of the last judgement was radically different from that existed when Miguel Ángel undertook the paintings of the vault of the chapel. Between one and another work there had been various developments that had a profound impact. Rome had ceased to live the euphoria of the "Roman certainties" of century to live under a deep crisis after the material and psychological effects caused by the sacking of the city in 1527. To this is added, on the other hand, increased rooting of the principles of the reform and the corresponding response from the counter-reformation and its impact on programmes and concepts of religious art.
Michelangelo's Final judgment is, in this respect, one of the highest expressions of this crisis and, at the same time, an attempt of affirmation and survival. However, all these factors aren't enough to explain the magnitude of the painting of Miguel Ángel, who soon was the object of harsh criticism, especially by such explicit nudes. Even the Congregation of the Council of Trent ordered in January 1564 the offensive parts of the bodies are covered.

It is evident that Miguel Ángel has changed, but it is not less that his painting is geared to move and express inner mood rather than establish a demonstration triumphant, as in the paintings of the dome. Miguel Angel, in the ignudi of the dome, had developed a corpus of models of naked articulated from the beginning of sequence and variation. In the Final judgement, the artist takes to its ultimate consequences this concern by the naked through the nearly four hundred figures of the composition. To the extent that the flesh of the bodies determine the dominant chromatic effect altogether, splashed with color, bright and hurtful, some clothing notes and highlighting on the background the blue of the sky.
Unlike the effect of seriality and variation of the paintings of the vault, Miguel Ángel here develops the idea of an infinite diversity. A diversity in which figures are not ordered parts of a code or a system to become the image of the infinite possibilities of individual expression as he fights against the fateful. In the trial end, the tension of them figures is the consequence of the rebellion facing it fatality of the whirlwind unstoppable of the rhythm circular ascending and descending, of it fortune expressed by the wheel of them elected and condemned. Individual expression full of tension which appeared already suggested in the figures of the mausoleum of Julius II, but here Miguel Ángel accentuating through concentrated energy cores that form different groups. Before Miguel Ángel, only Luca Signorelli in the trial end of the Cathedral of Orvieto (1499-1500) had introduced a distorting effect on the attitudes of the characters that heralded the pathos of Miguel Ángel.

Miguel Angel conceived the trial end as a composition unity, devoid of partitioning architectural and dividing it in four records horizontal of figures. The two upper ones are dedicated to the celestial world, while the lower two to the earthly and to hell. In media items of the auction, it represented groups of angels carrying the attributes of the passion.
Immediately lower body is that presents a greater compositional development and which has a more symbolic and significant condensation of the set. In the Center, presiding over all the whole, is Christ judge, prominent plastic and visually as an athletic, vigorous and enlightened, launching punishment spoke to the group that is to the left. On your right, at a secondary level, are the Virgin and figures of apostles and Patriarchs, martyrs and virgins and blessed, on both sides, between those who wanted to see a representation of the prophets in the athletic figures on our right, as opposed of the representation of the sibyls of the opposite side.
The figure of Christ as a representation of Justice, contrasts with the Virgin, evocative of mercy. However, although conflicting and differentiated both figures, expressed the same idea and the same principle and feeling. To the feet of Christ stand out them figures of San Lorenzo and San Bartolomé, probably by that to them, besides to the assumption, is dedicated the Sistine. In the skin that holds San Bartolomé, Miguel Angel is represented to itself same as it only soul not incarnate of all the composition that not was worthy of the presence of Christ before who intercedes the Holy and the artist offers the painting as a good work.
In the central area of the lower register, is the Group of angels playing trumpets to wake the dead, while two of them argue, as described in the Apocalypse, the little book of life and the big book of death. On both sides, describing a movement opposed, ascending and descending, two groups are found. Left, are those who ascend to be judged; on the right, the damned rushing to hell.

In correspondence with these two groups, are the figures of the lower register with the representation of the resurrection of the dead and the damned who are transferred in the barque of Charon, scene that has wanted to see hell in the Divine Comedy of Dante-inspired. In the center of this lower register, positioned as opposed in the same axis in which the figure of Christ, is Miguel Ángel represented the mouth of hell.
In the composition of the trial end, as previously in the decoration of the vault, Miguel Angel has de-emphasis of them effects regulatory of the perspective three-dimensional. Figures experience an increase in scale as they are in the upper registers. The central, with the figure of Christ, contains figures represented on one larger scale than the upper and the lower two. Also, the Group central, chaired by Christ, has been designed to a scale greater that those groups of figures side of this same record.
Miguel Ángel thus established an alteration of the perspective according to the hierarchy and the meaning of the figures that breaks all sensation site layout of the composition and the effect of horizontal which could produce different records. The final effect is, on the contrary, a composition embodied on a convex surface (which underline accented compositions on the diagonal of the angels of the eardrums with the attributes of the passion) in the center of the figure of Christ is. This solution introduces a reversed perspective effect but above all transmitted to the entire composition an effect of rotational movement whose center is the luminous figure of Christ, in the manner of a divine Sun, a Sun justitiae.
The identification of Christ with the light and the Sun had happened without interruption since the early days of Christianity. The general conception Dela composition, Miguel Ángel has described a cosmological management bodies in the universe according to a conception of the heliocentric (ahead of the discovery of Copernicus and recovering the hypothesis of antiquity), presided over by Christ, as the bright star that presides over the solar system and the order of the universe.

Recently, the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel have been restored. This has not meant a routine cleaning them but that has made it possible to discover unknown aspects of color and the techniques of the Italian painting of the 15TH and 16TH centuries. Made on the walls in the 15TH century frescoes were restored in the 1970s, PEAR in the 1980s began the restoration of the dome. Before, was to thoroughly study the procedures that should be followed since dirt and glue layers applied later to paintings, in addition to black them, required a meticulous restoration process, to use a mobile scaffold, with the same holes in the bridge created by Miguel Ángel for the paintings. The fresh, after cleaning, have recovered their sense original chromatic, vivid and contrasting, that have completely changed ideas about the color of the painting by the artist. In them years ninety was restored the trial end, that also pulled to the light the real intensity of the color of the work of Miguel Angel.

Taken from: Victor Nieto warden: "Sistine Chapel. The Final judgment". Magazine discover the art. Number 4. June 1999.

The end of the last judgment, before and after restoration

-LLORENS, Thomas: "Michelangelo". History 16. Madrid, 1994.
-GRANDSON ALCAIDE, Victor: "the art of the Renaissance". Col. know art, 7. History 16. Madrid, 1996.
-PARTRIDGE, L., MANCINELLI, F. and COLALUCCI, G.: "the trial end." The work and restoration". Nerea. Madrid, 1998.
-TOLNAY, Carles of: "Miguel Angel, sculptor, painter and architect". Alliance Ed. Madrid, 1985.
VV..: "the Sistine Chapel. A historical restoration". Nerea. Madrid 1995.

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