- The term refers to the Christian tenet that, at the end of time, Christ will return to judge mankind. The blessed will be taken up to heaven and the sinners sent to hell, where they will be punished for eternity. The subject, common in art, lends itself to the depiction of the nude in expressive gestures and poses. It also affords an opportunity for the depiction of the macabre, which was more common in Northern Europe than in the South. The most spectacular Last Judgment is Michelangelo's on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican (1536-1541). It features a profusion of muscular nudes in complex poses, typical of the master's style. In the center is Christ, his mother at his side, commanding the blessed to rise up to heaven, while the damned, clearly troubled, are pushed down by demons toward Charon, the character from Dante's Inferno who will transport them on his boat to the underworld. In Hubert and Jan van Eyck's version (1430-1435; New York, Metropolitan Museum), the blessed are lined up as they await entry into paradise, while a pile of tortured bodies cast into hell by St. Michael occupy the painting's lower portion. Hieronymus Bosch's Last Judgment (1504; Vienna, Akademie der Bildenden Künste) includes the blessed whom Christ presides over in a blue sphere that hovers above a fantastic landscape where the damned are tormented by monstrous demons in strange and inventive ways.See also Last Judgment, Sistine chapel, Vatican.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.
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