This week's product focus is one of our all time favourites, and is inspired by The Last Judgement. Completed by the Italian Renaissance painter Michelangelo, The Last Judgement is among the most powerful renditions of this moment in the history of Christian art. It is a fresco covering the entirety of the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican as seen below, depicting the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgement by God of all humanity.
The Last Judgement was one of the first art works Paul III commissioned upon his election to the papacy in 1534. The church he inherited was in crisis; the Sack of Rome in 1527 was still a recent memory. Paul sought to address not only the many abuses that had sparked the Protestant Reformation, but also to affirm the legitimacy of the Catholic Church and the orthodoxy of its doctrines (including the institution of the papacy). The visual arts would play a key role in his agenda, beginning with the message he directed to his inner circle by commissioning the Last Judgement.
The souls of humans can be seen rising and descending to their fates, as judged by Christ, who is at the centre of the scene and surrounded by prominent saints. Altogether there are over 300 figures in the entire painting, with nearly all the males and angels originally shown as nudes, painted draperies later covered up many. The work was completed between 1536, and 1541 and Michelangelo began working on it twenty-five years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He was nearly 67 when he completed it.
In the lower part of the fresco, Michelangelo followed tradition in showing the saved ascending at the left and the damned descending at the right. In the upper part, the inhabitants of Heaven are joined by the newly saved. The fresco is more monochromatic than the ceiling frescoes and is dominated by the tones of flesh and sky. The cleaning and restoration of the fresco, however, revealed a more excellent chromatic range than previously apparent. Orange, green, yellow, and blue are scattered throughout, animating and unifying the complex scene.
The reception of the painting was mixed from the start, with much praise but also criticism on both religious and artistic grounds. Both the amount of nudity and the muscular style of the bodies has been one area of contention and the overall composition another. In the present day, The Last Judgement painting is worth an estimated $540 million.
Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art. His artistic versatility was of such a high order that he is often considered a contender for the title of the archetypal Renaissance man, along with his rival and elder contemporary, Leonardo da Vinci.
Several Michelangelo's works of painting, sculpture, and architecture rank among the most famous in existence. His output in these fields was prodigious; given the sheer volume of surviving correspondence, sketches, and reminiscences, he is the best-documented artist of the 16th century. He sculpted two of his best-known works, the Pietà and David, before the age of thirty. Despite holding a low opinion of painting, he also created two of the most influential frescoes in the history of Western art: the scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome and The Last Judgement on its altar wall. To show his contempt at being commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted himself as the flayed St Bartholomew, who is shown close to Christ.
What Makes Our Pocket Squares So Special?