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Hell in Michelangelo's Last Judgment
Among the problems which have confronted scholars dealing with the interpretation of Michelangelo's Last Judgment' is the physical positioning and symbolic role played by Hell in the fresco. It seems curious that the "Cave of Hell"should be situated directly over the altar in the Sistine chapel while, at the same time, condemned figures are clearly being propelled towards "Hell"proper which seems to exist "off-stage" to the viewer's right, Christ's sinister [Fig. 1]. According to iconographic tradition, Hell was most frequently depicted at the lower edge of the Last Judgment scene. This corresponded with the cosmological view of the universe in broad terms, namely the common concept of Ascent to Heaven and Descent to Hell in a "flat-earth" system, which is alluded to in numerous places in the Scriptures. The iconography of the Last Judgment was linked with the idea of a fixed hierarchy in the cosmos, demonstrated by the use of a layered horizontal composition, organized into ascending and descending tiers.2 This format is seen in the earliest surviving examples, such as the sixth-century manuscript of Cosmas Indicopleustes [Fig.
2], and the practice was also followed in many examples of the medieval and Renaissance period. A Bolognese panel of the fourteenth century demonstrates the typical arrangement, with Satan in Hell in the center of the lowest register [see Fig. 3].3 As a further link between this scene and cosmological symbolism, the actual positioning of the Last Judgment within the framework of a church or chapel was also significant. While most churches possessed an East-West orientation, with the altar in the East, there had long been a traditional tendency for the Last Judgment to be positioned on the interior of the west wall of a church, because of the association between the Last Judgment, or the end of the world, and the setting of the sun in the west. In this position, the subject also served as a disciplinary reminder to the congregation on exit, as for example at Torcello and Padua [Figs. 4 and 5].4 In northern Europe, especially in examples of medieval French portal sculpture, versions of the Last Judgment were similarly often placed in the west, but on the external tympanum, here to be lit by the setting sun. Hell was, again, frequently positioned across the low83
84 . fresco (13.Rome...7 x 12.. 1536-41.e MWEZ -i- 1) Michelangelo. VaticanCity.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN I:7 AL ?Ar ? :••e-p.. Sistine Chapel. Photo: Vatican Museums.2m). ((LastJudgment)).
I4H I ? IS6 "p. Rome. Photo: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.ie In1 A 0 1 a .HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST ICA" A '" .sl~ 0 Ak -111~' r. ((Last Judgment)). Gr. detail from Christian Topography(Vat.--I ? 2) Cosmas Indicopleustes.699) sixth century. Vatican Library. 85 .
VALERIE SHRIMPLIN -? jl ?kl k r 4r~ r'ti lip- 41 i? Ito~ 3) Unknown Bolognese artist. Pinacoteca. Bologna. 86 . 14th century. panel. ccLastJudgment)). Photo: Archivio Pinacoteca Nazionale. Bologna.
A figure representing Avarice appears weighed down by his money bags and the key to his treasure [Fig. In addition.s The opposing orientation of the altar to the east.8]. yet a "Cave of Hell"is also. this tendency appears also to have been reinforced in examples of the Last Judgment. popular in earlier versions of the subject are clearly avoided by Michelangelo. If the Last Judgment in the west was to signify the end. Here. 9]9 but the facial and bodily expressions of Michelangelo's portrayal of condemned figures are clearly more subtle interpretations than the typical scenes of torture relished by HL jF E L 40 11 !too* :I r l je . 10] show the horror and devastation of those doomed to eternal damnation far more clearly than the worm-eaten skeletons of the medieval imagination. then the altar in the east naturally signified the new beginning. Fig. and "Hell"appears less as a physical place than as a psychological state of mind. Torcello. Sta MariaAssunta. Dante's Inferno has been acknowledged as the source for the figures of Charon [Fig. it normally lies partially hidden behind the altar cross and six massive candlesticks [Fig. a unique position for a Last Judgment fresco. directly over the altaritself. the figures of the damned are clearly being propelled by Charon in his barque toward Hell in the lower right hand corner where Minos marks the way. it seems specifically to avoid the awkward and undesirable location of Hell directly over the altar. 6]. 12]. but contrasting. 4 and 5] and also at Florence in the Baptistery dome.6 The gradual displacement of Hell from its usual position at the center of the lower edge of scenes of the Last Judgment towards the viewer's rightbecame increasingly marked. to a change in its usual position.it seems. it became more frequently depicted upon portablealtarpieces as opposed to fresco or mosaic.LAST IN HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT est register [for example. owing to the reverse orientation of the Sistine Chapel. Charon is situated quite emphati87 . In neither Michelangelo's central cave. in order. but in the Divina Commedia. as well as in the original classical sources for these figures. Inthis context. due partly. Duringthe Renaissance. symbolic meaning. 11] and Minos [Fig. Vivid portrayals of red hot tongs and cauldrons of boiling oil. 12th century. exemplified by the series by FraAngelico in Italy[Fig. Portable altarpieces of the Last Judgment might thus no longer possess a western orientation. The arrangement is particularlynoticeable at Torcelloand Padua [Figs. nor in the scene at bottom right do the torture scenes common in medieval depictions of Hell occur.This appears to be related to the custom of separating the saved and the damned on Christ's right and left hand respectively.Altarpieces of this type. as in Michelangelo's time.mosaic. o ~E E 4) uLastJudgment)). life and salvation through Christ's sacrifice. the artists at Pisa and Florence or even by Giotto.7] or Rogiervan der Weyden in northern Europe. depicted in the center of the lower edge of the fresco. Christ'ssinister). but would normallybe situated at or on the east wall or altar. Figures of condemned souls [for example.10 Michelangelo rather chose to depict a psychological despair in his vision of the damned hurled into Hell. also had significant. Michelangelo'sLastJudgment poses a special problem since. Fig. towards the sun-rise. especially in medieval Italy.e. according to Matthew 25:3334. strangely.7 almost invariably see Hell removed to the viewer's right (i. At this time. as has already been mentioned.8it is simultaneously situated on the west wall of the chapel as well as the altarwall.
A"fiE~ 1Bt. c. ((Last Judgment)). Il ..VALERIE SHRIMPLIN XF2ff =r5r mili ox ~ -.? jr~- a~f Ir f A WtL 5) Giotto. Padua. Photo: Scala.4 i'lacPeB F-~ vw? ~~ Fh . 88 . fresco.142kfi . 1305. Arena Chapel.
440. cr " . West Portal. tympanum. 89 .. Photo: Bibliotheque Nationale.A loop~ . Paris. Notre Dame. 1163-1250.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST 4i 0- C)41F mp .~~:~YCC~w NOW 6) (Last Judgment)).. Paris. 4 i4 r*"g 4vZ .. ...
in front of the Cave.. ((LastJudgment)). 1440. 105 x 310 cm. DEAL. 90 . Museo di San Marco.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN cgo -ft 'Im 7) FraAngelico (otherwise attributed to Zanobi Strozzi). Photo: Vatican Museums. c.WL 'TAA-1-- iir 8) Altar of the Sistine Chapel. Florence. altarpiece. Photo: Scala.
LAST HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN . ((LastJudgment)).?.-4- -C rrrc`"~-At W ?IVIOL m4.?I t 49?~- 9) Michelangelo. 91 . Avarice.. Photo: Vatican Museums.-- "44L -rr ? ~~--rr4?0 -3p tw. detail.
. ((LastJudgment. The damned are being directed towards the entrance of Hell which is clearly denoted by Minos beyond the very bottom right hand corner. In no way can they be read as . -14- ?-? ?. examining the sins of those who enter. but exists somewhere beyond and below the picture space in the bottom right 92 hand corner. and Minos also stands near the entrance. Its presence is suggested rather than directly portrayed by the distant fires and the anguish of the figures." It thus appears that "Hell"as such is not actually depicted here in the fresco.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN ?-V 3r.?AV . Photo: Scala.Vf 10) Michelangelo. detail of Damned Soul. not in Hell itself. cally at the entrance to Hell..
12) Michelangelo. are clearly discernible. those ejected from Charon's boat. although blackened by smoke from the altar candles beforethe recent restoration programme. Minos. feeding into the central "Hell-cave"[Fig.. the Cave itself and the arrangement of certain figures within it. together with a central fire." As he further points out. . %1? ?2:. ?.12 Some authors draw attention to the puzzling matter of hell being situated over the altar. are being propelled. 1562.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST . The two scenes seem quite separate. 11) Michelangelo. I~i~ec.. detail. Few writers have attempted to explain this anomaly of two separate areas being used to indicate Hell and of the "Cave of Hell"being situated over the altar itself. Thus the question is raised as to the precise meaning of the separate Cave over the altar-which lies not at all in the direction in which the damned figures.. t: ' i ii •. Nicholas Beatrizet. 1543. Charon. .~ .13for. Photo: Vatican Museums.. 13].. ((Last Judgment)).•ii!•. ((Last Judgment)). I. Steinberg describes the problem as quite "baffling. sufficiently so as to suggest independent significance and meaning. detail. ?. most art historians simply tend to pass it by and the few who refer to it seldom agree. Photo: Vatican Museums. 93 . With the aid of Marcello Venusti's copy of 1549 [Fig. 14] and engravings by della Casa.
15].. Tolnay... and Martinus Rota..--. gives just five lines to his discussion of this area. the arrangement in the Cave becomes even clearer.. .. . lower zone. ? ••. .14 Although this Cave has been designated as "Hell" or "Hellmouth"by a large number of those writers who mention it specifically.. .. for example.AN 13) Michelangelo. detail. and that Hell is actually a separate area at lower right. Referring to it as a "grotto." he finds the designa94 tion Limbo more appropriate than the usual "Hell"16 Tolnay argues this on the basis that souls appear to be raised from the grotto and saved..'7 That these alternative explanations of the curious Cave over the altar appear unacceptable has already been demonstrated by Steinberg.. Giovanni Baptista de' Cavalieri. 1569 [Fig. ((LastJudgment)). 1567.l ...18 He finds the idea of Limbo proposed by Tolnay . amongst all his lengthy analysis of the fresco. The idea that the Cave represented Purgatory was also proposed by Stendhal and Delacroix in the early nineteenth century.SHRIMPLIN VALERIE IC ? ..1'5 alternative possibilities of its representing Limbo or Purgatory have also been discussed. Photo: Vatican Museums. showing Hell. who examines the problem in depth.
Naples. Ilk?? 14) Marcello Venusti. copy of the ccLastJudgment)) of Michelangelo. Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte..IN LAST HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT . Photo: Scala. 1549. 95 .A. 4w.
as part of the Apocrypha. The representation of Purgatoryin art was extremely rare. Chronologically. The Descent into Hell of Christ is not mentioned in the New Testament. as a reference to the efficacy of the Mass in the saving of souls. for Michelangelo to make such a positive statement on its significance.one of which was situated directly over the altar.. contrary to all expectation and tradition. the existence of Purgatory was a controversial issue in the mid-sixteenth century and regarded by many Catholics as mere medieval superstition. and that the punishments offered are not everlasting but remedial.8]). then the Cross of Christ (on the altar) would be placed directly in the center of this "Cave of Hell" as concurs precisely with the words from the Gospel of Nicodemus: "andso it was done and the Lordset his Cross in the midst of Hell.26 Contemporary interest in the Gospel of Nicodemus in Renaissance Rome has received some attention. as he rightly shows. Angels do appear to be rescuing or aiding former inmates of the Cave and the idea of the Cave as Purgatory would explain its separation from Hell proper in the lower right-hand corner. The positioning of Purgatory at the site of the altar could be deemed appropriate."29 us with a source and reason for immediately provide Michelangelo's placing Hell. as at Torcello [Fig.. but the Gospel of Nicodemus remained the major source. therefore. And these copies do seem to show the disquiet which was felt by contemporaries and copyists concerning the existence of two apparentlyseparate areas of Hell. it appears for the first time in the Gospel of Nicodemus. As Reau points out.22 Having thus discounted the explanation of the "Cave of Hell"over the altar in terms of Limboor Purgatory. In addition. Fig. The struggle between angels and devils for human souls in that region appears apt. the presence of positive aspects . has been established."31 . this is clearly not the intention of the fresco itself.27 The popularity of the Gospel of Nicodemus itself has been demonstrated by Stechow. De Vecchi has noted that this type of more optimistic reading of the fresco has become increasingly discussed. 4].19 However.20 It was perhaps unlikely. the "Cave" in question bears no resemblance whatsoever to Dante's familiarseven-storey edifice as described in Purgatorio21 and Dante's concepts. it has also recently been proposed as a source for art in the 1530's and 40's. in traditional iconography. in spite of the argument established by Stendhal and Delacroix.Steinberg also examines the way in which later copyists of Michelangelo's Last Judgment have attempted to reintegrate it with the area of the "shores of Hell"and the "lake of fire" which clearly exist in the bottom right hand corner."25 96 It is at this point that the present discussion must part company with Steinberg in his examination of the problem and the relevant literature and interpretations. it appears that other possibilities exist for the explanation of this "baffling" problem. The theme was propagated in the West through the Speculum of Vincent of Beauvais and the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine.23 Steinberg also dismisses this alternative reading of one single area of Hell. Since the altarwould always carry a Cross in the center (shown in many photographs [e. since."30 Such an interpretationof the Cave over the altarwould confirm a majortheme of the fresco as one of hope. In addition to the various interpretations of the problem outlined above. victory and salvation through the powerfulChristas much as of the gloom and despair of the damned. as Steinberg also relates. Steinberg reasonably points out that Purgatory operates priorto the Day of the LastJudgment and thus never had any place at all in Last Judgment iconography. play no part there. One which was touched on by Steinberg was the idea of Christ's role in Hell and it is important to remember here that. derived from the Divina Commedia are recognized as being very closely followed elsewhere in the fresco. and Michelangelo's Michelangelo's involvement with the movement of Nicodemism has been argued through the evidence of his self-portrait as Nicodemus in the Florentine Pieth. depictions of the Last Judgment were occasionally combined with Christ's Descent into Hell. in "Michelangelo's Last Judgment as MercifulHeresy.as in the versions by Venusti [Fig. alongside the Limbo/Purgatory approach.This is partof what he views as "Merciful Heresy. also. which is the sign of Victory and it shall remain there forever.g.15]. and recent studies demonstrate "the decisive rejection of any reading centred too one-sidedly on its terrifyingaspects. as well as the idea of purging by fire which is depicted within the Cave itself. He then proceeds to build on his earlier well known paper. clearly evident in the fresco. Steinberg demonstrates that their aim appears in this to be the creation of one "entity"of Hell.28 and the second part of this gospel is almost totally concerned with the visit of Christ to Hell. The idea of Purgatory appears to be equally unlikely.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN inept. This could where "Heerected a Cross as a sign of Victory. 14] and Rota [Fig. since fire and flames."24 order to develop his own interpretationbased on the concept that "Hell"as represented in Michelangelo's fresco is a temporary hell. over the altar of the Sistine chapel which has long puzzled scholars.
Paris.. ~ E~~ IAi -rrzK T? SO.ui"1 ~ ~ l-Y I~~P-Y~ Opp ? for 0. 'PIN AtI I~l. M v - Ak -i?.7. engraving. w flr . Photo: Bibliothbque Nationale.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST ~ IL 1*' 11SW*L*zJ'n . copy of the ((Last Judgment)) of Michelangelo.i) "a~~? ?_ *' N* ". Bibliotheque Nationale. 1569.t~t~~. ?AL 4' vsteieL1 LL: iAll -low L N.A". s~ 1 In ivI?r m. Paris.~t? L~il.low~ .%wn -1 - - ??so 15) Martinus Rota. ~~Os. ai+-p:~"*~. 97 .
. again. We certainly infer this comparison from the sixth book of Plato's On the Republic".42 Similar specific allusions occur in his commentaries on the Parmenides.". For he compares the sun and God to each other. warmth and life itself.4 Ficino also traces the ancient sources for the Sun-Deity analogy in his tractDe Sole (1493) and here. where the Good (Agathon) is compared directly with the Sun. he refers specifically to the writings of Plato. are particularlyimportant for the way in which these different aspects were very much interlinkedand part of a wide cult or interest in Sun-symbolism during the Renaissance. In his Commentary on Plato's Symposium (otherwise known as the De Amore. Timaeus and Laws.. he specifically names Republic 6 as a key source for the concept. Ficino again refers widely to the Sun-Deity analogy. neoplatonic.34Another source familiarto Michelangelo was Dante's Divina Commedia in which a tremendous emphasis is laid on the Deity as the Sun or a point of light in the center of the The writings of the neoplatonist MarsilioFicino Empyrean.. All these references serve to demonstrate not only the prevalence of the Sun-Deity analogy." where the apparent interweaving of different themes in the fresco has been emphasized according to Michelangelo's subtle synthesis of religious. Without claiming direct great scholarly knowledge by Michelangelo of Ficino's Latintexts.the TheologiaPlatonica (1481). it does seem highly likelythat he must have been aware of Ficino's writings and. which has become widely discussed as a major theme in the fresco.35 also reinforce this theme of the Sun-Deity analogy. Evidence thus suggests that Plato's Sun metaphor appears to have been utilized by Michelangelo as a source for the Sun-Christ in his LastJudgment fresco. but. with the neoplatonic concept and its origins. the Good.in assessing the representation of Christ as Sun-symbol in the center of the universe which seems to be a major theme in the Last Judgment fresco. especially in chapters 9 and 11. since his formative years spent in the house of Lorenzo de' Medici has also been widely accepted. has ing of Christ. which was to some extent undergoing a revival amongst the Catholic reformers with whom he was associated. 1484). as in his translations of the third-century neoplatonist Plotinus. and the influence of neoplatonism upon Michelangelo."Butin the Sixth book on the Republic that divine man [Plato] explains the whole thing.36 Finally. while at the same time being incorporated with Catholic reforming ideas. by whom all things are made. in his own tract. literary and purely scientific sources for the theme.41 In his treatise on Pseudo-Dionysius' De Divinis Nominibus. hence. and particularlySun-symbolism and cosmology do seem to have influenced the Last Judgment.. He writes.depicted as a beardless "Apollonian" become immensely popular and almost ubiquitous in the literaturefrom the time of the writings of Tolnayin the 1940's. the light of understanding and of Knowledge-in short. Ficino mentions and discusses this at several points in his writings.39Ficino acknowledges his source for the con98 cept of the sun as an allegory of the Deity as founded upon Plato's Sixth Book of the Republic. but neoplatonic ideas. and. for Ficino (as perhaps also for Michelangelo). but also its recognized source in Plato's Republic 6. and he says that the light of the intellect for understanding all things is the same God himself. and the probable significance of neoplatonic Sun-symbolism in the formation of the iconography of the Last Judgment. Plato's reference to the Sun as a metaphor for the Good was interpreted as a literal equation between Sun and Deity by the Renaissance neoplatonists like Ficino who were trying to integrate Christian and antique themes.32 This concept has recently been fully examined in a paper. which was widely circulated.37 Michelangelo's exposure to Copernicus' theory of the heliocentric universe.. Ficino also acknowledges the significance of Plato's Republic 6. The readtype. "Not without reason does Dionysius compare God to the sun. it has been demonstrated that the actual scientific theory of Copernicus which placed the sun in the center of the circular universe was also available to Michelangelo and his patrons (Clement VIIand Paul III)at the time of the commission of the fresco. Ficino demonstrates how Plato extends the metaphor to embrace the notion of the sun as the source of light.38 For Michelangelo. later.44 It appears particularlysignificant for the present discussion on Hell in the Last Judgment fresco that integrated with this highly importantsection of the Republic and directly following on from the platonic exposition of the Sun-Deity analogy on which a main theme of Michelangelo's fresco ap- . Evidence for Michelangelo's interest in neoplatonism need not be repeated in detail here.33 It was demonstrated that Michelangelo had access to the traditional Christian association of light and Sun-symbolism with the Deity. Philebus. a major source for neoplatonic Sunsymbolism was the work of Ficino.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN The more optimistic or "hopeful"approach to the fresco also fits in well with the view of Michelangelo's Christof the Last Judgment in terms of a Sun-symbol. in which neoplatonism played a major role. not to mention his commentary on Republic itself.43As in the De Amore and the De Sole. "Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo's Last Judgment. where Plato'sRepublic 6 is again cited as a specific source. the original source of this comparison between the Sun and the Deity lay in the writings of Plato himself.
where the presence of platonic influence has been observed.. It may also be recognized as being capable of potential Christian interpretation because of the central concept of coming out of the darkness into light. able to see only the shadows cast on the wall of the cave by moving objects or artefacts. as well as in Ficino's work on Plotinus." Simply stated. This process allegorically represents the contemplation of higher things (the Good. is that which directs the soul to the contemplation of what is best amongst reality."Philosophy can enable them to become free by drawing them out in painful ascent to the realm of day where all is illuminated "by the dazzling light of the sun" and they can then "rise through the pure ideas of reason to the idea of Good."57If."52 Plato says. rising from utter folly to the vision of brilliance.58 Pico also referred specifically to Plato's metaphor of the Cave in his writings. He gives a clear image of the arrangement of the Cave and demonstrates how man is able to escape from the darkness of the Cave of ignorance and "go forth from darkness into sunlight. Ficino comments particularlyon its spiritual meaning.56Although Plato's use of the metaphor had educational significance in the context of the training of the Guardians of the Republic. when explaining the allegory.48 The last and most difficult thing to perceive is the idea of the Good-the Sun itself."46and then goes on to describe men who sit fettered with their backs to a fire. their situation in the cave is symbolic of human bondage and ignorance. the simple but effective idea of coming out of the dark into the light of reason and the Good (inextricably linkedwith Plato's Sun-metaphor) is a metaphor which might be readily understood-more so. Plato begins his famous description of the Cave: "Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern.47 The men of Plato's cave are to be freed and "drawnout into the light of the sun. God. Light symbolism is frequently used in the Bible. according to Plato. in Michelangelo's fresco. A clearly human presence is suggested by the nude back view of a figure outlined by the 99 . Timaeus and Laws. as for example. as such.53Other specific references to Plato's Cave and Republic 7 are to be found in Ficino's commentaries on the Philebus. The idea of the Sun-Deity analogy occurs in his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486). The process of illumination is an arduous one because "the passage from the deeper darkof ignorance into a more luminous world and the greater brightness had dazzled its vision. "All sciences. These shadows they take for "reality. Some figures peer from the gloom.49 Plato's Cave. In particular. and it is often cited in conjunction with the Sun metaphor of Republic 6. which demonstrates contemporary knowledge of this passage. than some of Plato's more complex notions. which is strengthened by his references to it elsewhere in his writings.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST pears partly to be dependent.55The idea that Plato's Cave had become a topical matter for discussion during the Renaissance is also shown by Ficino's letters to his friends and associates. then the Cave at the lower edge might plausibly possess an association with the Cave of Republic 7. as well as in his Heptaplus. according to Ficino) and by this means. by its own light. the Sun-Christ is depicted as Ficino's "vision of brilliance. Apart from Ficino's own writings and letters. Ficino's letter to the theologian Angiolieri incorporates Ficino's"wordfor word"translationof Plato'stext." At first the light of the sun blinds them even more. may thus in turn explain Michelangelo's depiction of a Cave immediately above the altarof the Sistine chapel. as part of the main Sun-Deity theme in the fresco. but then the human soul becomes accustomed to the light and is enveloped in its warmth and goodness. Ficino's own translation and commentary on the Republic places an emphasis on the combined Sun-Cave metaphor. is the passage in which Plato introduces his famous metaphor of the Cave-perhaps the most familiarof all Platonic passages-which forms the main theme of Republic 7..so The same analogy of the Cave is again stressed by Plato in a later section of Republic 7. It is dependent upon the way in which.51 Here." until "the soul is able to endure the contemplation of essence and the brightest region of beingand this we say is the Good" (understood as God by Ficino). the progress from Cave to sunlight is emphasized and the key is said to be conthis procedure of the arts and templation and education.45 Plato's metaphor of the Cave is inextricably linked with the Sun metaphor of his previous section and. as stated. Pico dell Mirandola(1463-94). Plato's Cave is thus directly related to the symbolism of the sun as an analogy with the Good or God. may also be regarded as having been influentialupon Michelangelo'sLast Judgment fresco as a whole. Republic 7 is again specifically discussed and translated at several points. .54In the Theologia Platonica.59 In the center of the lower edge of Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment the large Cave is clearly defined. Plato demonstrates how these "perpetualprisoners"may be freed. especially in the Gospel of St John. where it is a major theme. the soul can escape its bonds and ascend to the intelligible region. furtherevidence for the prevalence of knowledge of Plato's metaphor of the Sun and Cave (and hence Michelangelo's likelyacquaintance with the idea) is also to be found in the works of other philosophers. the sun makes its own realm or self intelligible."as in Republic 6. And here he refers back to the Sun-metaphor which dominates his previous section and which. perhaps.
"Hell" itself seems. but rather coming out of it. might be considered as capable of possessing reference not only to the Christian Hell but also to Plato's Cave. Outside the Cave. travelling upwards towards the Sun-Christ. ?1 i ??: ":*~ i:. central fire whose glow is seen in the depths [Fig. The figures close by the Cave are clearly not being drawn into it (feet first).VALERIE SHRIMPLIN i:.. The idea of figures "coming out" of the Cave appears far more appropriate to Plato's Cave than to the Christian Hell: the notion of "escape" from Plato's Cave is more logical than any idea of the damned escaping from the ChristianHell. detail of nude in Cave. detail of Cave area. situated in the extreme lower right-handcorner are avowed. . ?:i?? ?iri? Cii'? . Men are symbolically freed by coming out into the light of the Sun-Deity..:!?:ldn ::r?? .61 ." but they are being propelled (on the right hand side of the 100 fresco) in a completely different direction. 17].?: " '"' 'i. since.:.. Photo: Vatican Museums..r ~?~* :? . <cLast Judgment)). in fact. by both ancient writers and by Dante to be situated at the entrance to Hell.h~ d 1 " . to the viewer's left.? ?IL~ i?: ?:?. hardlyto be depicted in the fresco at all. 17) Michelangelo. <<Last Judgment)). outwards through a breach in the Cave and upwards towards the Sun-Christ [Fig.f a: :?''?: ?? ? '' ?i. then.These who have been damned are not being pulled into this "Cave of Hell. are figures moving away. 16].60 This Cave.N~I 16) Michelangelo.? ?? . Charon and Minos. showing figures moving outwards and upwards. Photo: Vatican Museums. as has already been pointed out.
According to Guicciardini(writingin 1537-40.71 If the cosmological explanation of the Sun-symbolism in Michelangelo's Last Judgment together with its neoplatonic overtones is considered."66 A call was made for a Council to reform the Church at this time. Clement's success was short-lived. the Pope was once more in a strong position.63Yet the contemporary historian. to fit in well with the historical circumstances of the fresco's creation.. "tranquillity" departure of the Turksfrom Europe in 1532 removed yet another threat. In addition.65 As Guicciardini relates. for he died soon afterwards (September 1534). The Sack of Rome had taken place six years earlier and marked a particularlybad time for Italyand the Pope.. was in not regarded as irreversible at the time. notes our contemporary source. outbreaks of plague and a humiliating peace treaty.. who saw the commission "unchanged" through to its conclusion.69 As in the metaphor of Plato's Cave. Inthe recent publication following the restoration of the ceiling frescoes. namely that of the secession of the English Church under Henry VIII 1533. when the earliest preliminary discussions concerning the commission were made. It also fits in well with recent art historical interpretation of the fresco which detects a less pessimistic aura in the fresco. than numerous earlier references to its dark desperate atmosphere. This interpretationseems appropriate for those who lived priorto Christ. these manoeuvres "putan end to the long and grave wars which had continued for more than eight years with so many horrible occurrences. but the commission was carried out according to his wishes by his successor Paul Ill. In an historical context. restored to liberty" and "once more restored to his former greatness. it has often been argued that the Last Judgment reflects the aura of pessimism and despair of the time of its creation.who peer out from the darkness of a cave-like space [Fig. However. Chastel has observed that in the darkfigures of the ancestors of Christin the lunettes on Michelangelo's ceiling "we may be reminded of the dwellers in the Cave of Plato's Republic.67Thus at the time of the commission of the Last Judgment in 1533. was "within the space of a few months . which displeased the Pope because he feared loss of power. as Guicciardini relates. as mentioned above. Although."64 Peace was established not unfavorablyto the Pope by the Treatyof Barcelona (June 1529) between Pope and the Emperor. the reading of the Cave in the fresco as connected with the Platonic metaphor or escape from darkness into the light of the sun also seems appropriate. especially in the eyes of those who had seen him prisoner in the Castel Sant' Angelo. The shameful captivity of the Pope was followed by rebellion in Florence. after his returnfrom an immensely successful visit to France."62. between Pisa and Florence. Clement VIIwas actually on his way to France to negotiate the marriage of his niece Catherinede' Medici with a French prince. Another major problem. on 22nd September.. 1533.Clement VIIde' Medici. Miniatoal Tedesco.. Guicciardini (1483-1540) presents a rather different picture of the situation in 1533 when the commission was actually determined. 18]. and there was still hope for reconciliation with the German protestants. Too sophisticated to portray a medieval Hell of torture. yet it seems strange that the Cave over the altar has not been considered in the same terms. Clement "returnedto Rome with the greatest reputation and marvellous happiness. then it seems totally plausible that a neoplatonic explanation of the Cave at the center of the lower edge of the fresco is also viable. had suffered terriblyand the fresco has frequently been read as a symbolic representation of this catastrophe which severely affected the whole of Rome. and he also assisted Clement in quelling the rebellion in Florence in 1530. by 1533. The Guicciardini. therefore. the Pope experienced "incredible joy" over a marriage treaty with France. before Michelangelo's fresco was even completed). by the forces of the Emperor Charles V. The Emperor showed respect to Clement VIIin their meeting at Bologna (November 1529). incarcerated in surroundings where light appears only as a reflection . by 1528 the Pope. caused by the notorious Sack of Rome in 1527. Michelangelo 101 . who inaugurated the commission.68In December 1533. but he was able to stave this off and. as Guicciardini tells us. according to continued through 1530-32.and the Treaty of Cambrai(August 1529) between the Emperorand the King of France (partly arranged by the Papal agents Cardinals Salviati and Sch6nberg).70 This present interpretation of the Cave seems. this hardly describes a "period of catastrophe" or an atmosphere of doom and pessimism in late 1533 / early 1534 when the commission was first inaugurated.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST The idea of Michelangelo's probable awareness of Platonic "Cave" symbolism has significantly been mentioned already in the context of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. who had fallen from power. been held in captivity and suffered the loss of Rome and his dominions. Pope Clement had come out of the darkness into the light in the years 15281533. recent scholarship has suggested a more optimistic reading of the fresco. Clement VII had great hopes of resolving the political and theological problems with which he was faced." Even allowing for the bias of the contemporary historian (and Guicciardiniwas persona non grata with the Medicis after the siege of Florence). when he met Michelangelo (apparently for the first discussions on the new commission) at S.
18) Michelangelo. . Sistine ceiling. detail of lunette... .. . v ~~13- ?' _ .. uAncestor of Christ))..i..VALERIE SHRIMPLIN *i .. --.. qp-ig ntt .....1 :: .. v n:......Photo: Vatican Museums.".... 102 . -!•":•:" <• ?I -.•t•....-.. 1 _o:ii T i A V' .
Conversely. Neoplatonic meaning in Michelangelo's fresco as man is freed from the darkness of Hell through knowledge of the Sun-Christ. may thus lead to the conclusion that the cave over the altar really represents Plato's Cave (Republic 7). which can be related to a Christianinterpretation of Plato's Republic 6. equated with knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice. which have frequently been relegated to separate periods of Michelangelo's oeuvre. of platonic and Christian concepts which are mutually reinforcing and also far more subtle than medieval depictions of Hell's tortures. despair and spiritual death. as has been noted already in the fresco. but may in fact be regarded as complementary. The central Cave over the altar itself is representative of platonic notions of human ignorance. Linked with the use of the Sun-Deity analogy in the fresco. This being so. 151. would reinforce this latter idea. as they were by contempothe rary copyists and engravers. according to the platonists. Where the "Good" was equated with "God" by the neoplatonists. Just as Christ conquers the darkness of Hell to set men free."75 More recently. Much of the existing literature attributes neoplatonism to Michelangelo's early works. a subtle synthesis. and the platonic Sun-Deity analogy was given expression in the depiction of the Sun-Christ. The simplistic approach which is often argued. In terms of Christian neoplatonism. in this context. are combined in this late work. While the upper areas had have their former brightness revealed so that they are once more perceived in terms of Sun and light. According to the above hypothesis which claims Plato's writings (through the Florentine neoplatonists) as a major influence upon the Last Judgment. The two trains of thought are not to be regarded as mutually ex103 . the two concepts share the overriding theme of Salvation through knowledge of what is Good. reason conquers the darkness of ignorance. a reassessment of the common concept that Michelangelo was influenced by neoplatonism only in the earlier part of his career might be called for. and further deductions concerning Michelangelo's late period might also be made. perceived as the Cave of Hell. as elsewhere in the fresco."77The evidence for neoplatonism in Michelangelo's late work of the Last Judgment." Goldscheider has commented that the Last Judgment actually "marksthe end of Michelangelo's pagan phase. The neoplatonic interpretationof Sun-symbolim and circularcosmology in the Last Judgment fresco. men are freed from the Cave of ignorance by spiritual contemplation. over the altar which has been discussed here has been based upon the reasoned interest of Michelangelo in Nicodemism and the Gospel of Nicodemus. InChristianexegesis. confirms the idea that the depiction of the Sun-Christ in a circularformat is related to Ficino's interpretation of Plato's Republic 6-an argument notable for its perfect circularity. Hartt is among those who claim it is unrealisticto maintainthat Michelangelo had "ever been anything but profoundly religious. the Christian neoplatonic explanation of the "Cave" suggests both books 6 and 7 of Plato's Republic as critical source material for Michelangelo's Last Judgment.76 By contrast. where it appears to be totally integrated with Christianthought. and Reau referred to the Last Judgment as "la paganisation de I'artChretien. This concept is given Christian.This interpretationwhich relates to the contrasts between the darkened Cave and the bright vision of Christ above has been reinforced now that the cleaning of the fresco has been completed.but readings which categorize the work of this artist into simple neoplatonic or religious stages are inappropriate. the source of light and life. Anton Francesco Doni commented on the darkness of Hellwhich Michelangelo painted. despair and spiritual death. a second is derived from Plato's Cave and its relationship with the symbol of the Sun as Deity. different aspects of the theological and philosophical influences. In platonic thought. ceases to appear valid. like Rota [Fig.HELL MICHELANGELO'S JUDGMENT IN LAST depicts a psychological state of Hell in the expressions and gestures of the damned souls who fall hopelessly towards Hell. contrasting this with a later spirituality. The scriptural interpretation related to the descent of Christ into Hell as described in the Gospel of Nicodemus does not necessarily contradict the idea of the Cave as also bearing reference to the Cave of Plato. Liebert has and Neoplatonism" spoken of the "battle between Christianity and attempted to show how Michelangelo "relinquished neoplatonism and turned to Christianbeliefs in the 1530's"a line of argument also indicated by Steinberg who refers to Michelangelo's "profoundreligious conversion" at about the time of the Last Judgment.73 One explanation of the placement of the Cave. Christ'svisit to Hell and his conquest represent the triumph over ignorance and evil. from which darkness man is to be freed to come out into the light of knowledge and truth symbolized by the Sun. it might be argued that the presence of a Cave in the work. namely that of neoplatonism in his early works and Catholic influences in his later works. then Plato's Cave might be viewed. and hence as more or less one and the same thing. corresponding to Republic 7. as a psychological equivalent of the ChristianHell. in a letter to the artist in January 1543.74There appears to be in Michelangelo's Cave. so.Tolnayreferredto the "fundamental paganism" of the artist in his assessment of the Last Judgment.72 lower areas have remained relatively dark since contemporary reports describe them as such.
1978. 1 Michelangelo Buonarroti.1978. Aeneid VI. Pisa and Berlin. pp. Lees-Milne. see M. p. ForMinos. or pagan and irreligious. while incorporated within a Christian framework. "Michelangelo'sLastJudgment as MercifulHeresy. 77). Paris. See esp. 8 Chastel et al. Evidently Michelangelo's association with the Spirituali in the 1530's must have exerted a great deal of influence upon the artist. in line with the reverse orientation of St Peter's itself. combined and integrated with deep Christian feeling. 3 vols. 4 The disciplinaryfunction is also examined by S. which was greatly influenced by the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. pp. chapter 31. His birthat the winter solstice and His death and resurrectionat the Spring equinox has been discussed by such authors as H. Michelangelo. Edgerton.Michelangelo Rediscovered..thesis of the same title. 76f. more fully. fresco 13. Johannesburg. Art 10 Forfurtherexamples and discussion of this approach. 9 Figuresin this area appear to personifythe seven deadly sins. 53. chapter6."Michelangelo'sLast Judgment. Mile. and recently (in connection with the difference between this standard format and P Michelangelo'sown interpretation) de Vecchi. "The gods of the Underworld. Meiss.Rome.7 x 12. 1473. The Sistine Chapel. p.see Dante. 1984. chapter 4. 1455. Hans Memlinc.1445/50." Sixteenth CenturyJournal. Harmondsworth. Pictures and Punishment. Sistine Chapel. (J. 12 L. where the saved and damned are sometimes placed at either end of the same horizontalregister (as at Amiens). New York. London. 25.") 7 Otherexamples by FraAngelico include altarpieces in Rome. which demonstrate the widespread natureof this approach. 1991. 21. Minos is placed by Dante at the entrance to the second circle of Hell. see also R." in America. The GothicImage. Inferno Ill.Odyssey XI. This is discussed by L. for example. 1470. 11 For Charon." and Appendix IV. 1986. 182. 120-125 where additional sources in Homer. Meiss argues for an increased pessimism reflected in art after the BlackDeath. 3 These concepts are furtherdiscussed in V. p. 8 (originally published in Italian under the title // Giudizio Universale di Michelangelo." pp.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN clusive. Vatican. TheSistine Chapel. Shrimplin. Aeneid VI. University of the Witwatersrand. London. Reau. see Mile.unpublished Ph.in solar worship which caused him to have the Basilica built so that the rays of the rising sun would fall on the celebrant at the High altarduring the mass. 4 (1990). "ACornerof the LastJudgment.394-401 and Homer. "Symbolism in MedievalThought and its center in the Sun.in V. p. seems to have been a continuous feature in Michelangelo's work throughout his lifetime and platonic thought was never simply a classical. "TheChristianMystery of the Sun and Moon. 727-757. 63 (1975) p.Last Judgment (painted 1536-41). L. 1967. 35. 1957. 54 and 58 on pp. Gothic Image. Subsequent rebuildings followed this orientation. London.568. The Greek Myths. Y. and Virgil. part 2. 1963 (esp. Milan. 109 (1980) pp. 607-643 and. and compare Virgil. The Last Judgment.lconographiede l'Art Chretien.Shrimplin. 22f. 6 The association between Christand the sun. "Imageryof the Sun-Storm God in the New Testament. Northernexamples of the type. FlandersDunbar. 207-73."Daedalus. 243-250 and nn. esp. esp.568-572. chapters 2 and 3.D.Paintingin Florenceand Siena after the BlackDeath. Neoplatonism.GreekMyths and ChristianMystery.1977. On the Celestial Hierarchy and On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. 5 For further discussion of French portal sculpture."). Graves. E. Forfurtherdetails of the classical sources. The present reading of the Last Judgment would tend to reinforce the evidence for Michelangelo's neoplatonism. Steinberg. an idea which related to an earlier scheme proposed by Pope Clement VII. pp. vol. n.and H. 2 For this tradition. Virgiland Ovid are cited. 268- 104 . Chastel et al. InfernoV. Ithaca. Comparealso D. Princeton. and the continuation of its influence on his works even into his late period. 365-387. appears to be connected with solar has mythology."SunSymbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo's Last Judgment.Symbolism in Medieval Thoughtand its Consummationin the Divine Comedy. The probable reason for the reverse orientationof the Sistine Chapel. p. Redig de Campos.4f. New York.see.Lees-Milne arguedthat it was the interestof its founder.see Dante. pp. feature of his early works. 1. the EmperorConstantine. include versions by Petrus Christus. Steinberg. but his interest in neoplatonic ideas surely continued at this time. London. The tendency towards a right/leftseparation also occurs in Frenchsculptured tympana. Rahner.2 m. 1975)." in A.St Peter's Basilica in Rome.1961. 2 vols.1961 (chapter3. Dieric Bouts.
Painter."Art Quarterly. A Psychoanalytic Study of his Life and Images. and so on. 13-15.Purgatory is a "place appointed for those who have died in grace but have sins to expiate. of n. Dixon. Apollonian or sunlike Christare numerous (eg.Michelangelo. R. vol. Architect. p. Ofthe few other writers (apartfrom Steinberg) who have brieflydiscussed the problem. Michelangelo. [According to the Oxford Dictionary. S. 15 Salvini refers to the mouths (plural)of Hell (Salvini. 104). esp. Michelangelo. 91). St Augustine whose works have been argued as influentialupon Michelangelo (E.. 201. Stechow. TheSistine Chapel. Camesasca. Dotson. 762-63). pp. pp. Malachi4:2. 531f. Michelangelo. Heydenreich (ed. p. Munich. of 22 Steinberg. right over the altar")and E. Greenstein relates the Sun-Christparticularly the Transfiguration).Die Sixtinische Kapelle. pp. 237). 120 ("Thecave identified by some as the Mouth of Hell"or "Limbo")]. For details of the actual cross which would have been used here in Michelangelo'stime. Dante. (1940). Michelangelo. Iconographie. 58-66.) how. 29 See James. Michelangelo.pp. figs. 515). 85-92 ("pit"-p. 125-146. of and 62 on p. W. Steinberg. the idea of Divine Judgment. pp. Princeton. New York. Michelangelo. 1990  and Michelangelo. L. and recently J. The Complete Works of Michelangelo.D.passim. and nn. Chastel. 13 Redig de Campos found the term "Mouthof Hell"inappropriate (Redig de Campos. Michelangelo. Essai "Le 3 d'interpretation. LV. L. Hidden Michelangelo. 196-199.Michelangelo." The Art Bulletin 71.. 11:1. "The Christology of Michelangelo.p. TheApocryphal New Testament. see R Brieger." (New Catholic Encyclopedia). New York. 23 Steinberg demonstrates ("Cornerof the Last Judgment. pp.. 249."as in n. "Corner the LastJudgment. The problem was not discussed by Michelangelo's contemporarybiographers Ascanio Condivi(1553) or GiorgioVasari(1568) and has been somewhat passed over by modern art historians (for example. 16 Tolnay. Meiss and C. 245-248. p." ArtBulletin58 (1976)." p.1983.esp. A Chronicle of Italian Renaissance Painting. but chronologically precede. Salvini. 243. M. 269. of 26 For the Descent into Hell. 3 vols. Purgatorio." 32 See C. vol. "Joseph of Arimatheaor Nicodemus?. 245f. esp. 21:23. "Corner the Last Judgment. 27 V." p. 250f. Ibidem. Wilde.Paradiso. 548. "Corner the LastJudgment"p. while recently de Vecchi has commented that "the Mouth of Hell . F. Hibbard. Murray. Steinberg is also among those who present a more "optimistic"reading in his "MercifulHeresy..).pp.1982-86. 148. 2 (1989). R."p." Studien fOrToskanischenKunst. [References to the problem are also found in more popularworks on Michelangelo. See also A. Revelations 1:16. 1964. 163-182.Purgatorio. London. 20 . 1973 .. The Sistine Chapel. 3 above and unpublished Ph. "Corner the Last Judgment. For the Gospel of Nicodemus itself. 1973. not alreadymentioned at n. 60 105 . 268. 8. p. place or condition in the next world which will continue untilthe LastJudgment. According to the official Catholic definition. 132)." esp. London. 144. 1975. [The Oxford Dictionarydefines Limboas a "Regionon the border of Hellassigned to those who have failed to be Christiansbecause they have not had the chance.. 30 Ibidem. Michelangelo. von Einem. p. p. His Life Work and Times.Munich." but. 1975.von Einem. This paper is concerned with Michelangelo's involvement with the Catholic Reformation from the 1530's. 503-533 ("Mouthof Hell"-3.. Oxford. Both are related to.. London. Michelangelo. p. 14 For details of these and other copies. M. Other authors who comment on the beardless. placed exactly over the altar of the Chapel"was unlikelyto have indicated an attack on the Curia(P de Vecchi in Chastel et al. von Einem. Forvisual images of Dante's system.Steinmann. London. M Hall. The Final Period. 105. vol. 1983. The issue was discussed but not resolved at the Council of Trentand remained one of the great unsettled questions. The Gospel of Nicodemus was also suggested by von Einemas a source for Michelangelo's LastJudgment (H. 4 on p. to 33 Shrimplin. 1943-60."] Neither Limbo nor Purgatoryis explicit in the Scriptures. "Cornerof the LastJudgment. 25 Steinberg. p.pp.Michelangelo. p. Hibbard. W. Singleton. Salmi. p. p."Michelangelo'sLast Judgment Resurrection of the The Body and Predestination. See new translation(withtext) by A. Six Lectures. Michelangelo Buonarroti. Jugement Dernierde MichelAnge. The Sistine Chapel."'HowGloriousthe Second Coming of Christ. 34 For scripturalsources. where the souls of those who die in the state of Grace but not yet free from all imperfection make expiationfor unforgivenvenial sins . p. Hartt. James."] 17 Discussed by Steinberg. Other references to the cave or mouth of Hell. IlluminatedManuscriptsof the Divine Comedy.pp. 94-146.Moller). H. and by so doing are punished before they enter Heaven. p. De Tolnay. infants who have died unbaptized (New CatholicEncyclopedia. 5. see C."Merciful Heresy. Inferno. without official endorsement. New York. 1984. New Haven. Katsonis." pp.TheMakingof an Image. Matthew 17:2. 1966 ("Hell. Michelangelo.idem. 202). de Tolnay. Salvini. 5. see Reau. in these subsequent engravings. idem. S. pp. 33-57. 52) although this had been suggested by Steinmann (E. J. Hartt. "Merciful Heresy. 1969. see Tolnay. R. 135. 18 Steinberg."as in n. New York. 1973). London. 49. 43.1965. [A similarargument has recently been independently put forward by J. 155). such as R. New York. see esp."Michelangeloand Nicodemism: The Florentine Pieth. 59-60. 1 (1989). but could not enter Heaven before the Redemption-for example. TheHidden Michelangelo. Limbo is a term used to designate the state and place of those souls who did not merit Hell and its eternal punishments. vol. includeV Mariani. Mandelbaum."Artibus Historiae. the Painter. The Catholicdefinition of Purgatoryis "the state. Steinberg. see M.Anastasis. 19 20 Ibidem.esp. and figs. 246. Lotz.1905. It is strange that he should thus acknowledge the existence of a "double" withoutconsideringor providingany theoHell logical explanation. 5. 24 Steinberg. 1969. The Worldof Michelangelo. Michelangelo.20.L. "An Au21 p. 31 De Vecchiin Chastelet al."Sun-symbolismand Cosmology. 250: also R6au.Michelangelo ("HellMouth"-p. 2 vols. London. Wilde perceived the "Mouth of Hell at the altar"as a sign of the pessimism of Michelangelo (J.':Michelangelo's Last Judgment and the et Transfiguration. Michelangelo. Kristof. 1986.] 28 W. New York. 1978).. Greenstein. Coughland. H.. The concept repeatedly recurs in the writings of the ChurchFathers. 5. 9 above. 1969. this is a distortionof the originaldesign..1964.HELLIN MICHELANGELO'S LAST JUDGMENT 269. and A.M.thesis of same title." Journal of the American Academy of Religion. n. 132 and also in Salmi. Iconographie. pp. 5 vols. as he points out.FestschriftfdrL. Princeton. 54.TheDivine Comedy."Sixteenth Century Journal. 289-302. Liebert. 13 above. 257-259. p. D. vol. p. Hidden Michelangelo. pp. G. New York. p. Complete Worksof Michelangelo. Apocryphal New Testament. Princeton." p.London.1964 ("Thismysterious cave at the center"-p. 123f. the rejects from Charon's bark appear to be "beached" in the immediate vicinity of the "hellcave. London. 47-49. Michelangelo.Shrimplin. as "Michelangelo Nicodemus. Sculptor.
Neoplatonism of the ItalianRenaissance. by writers like S. B. esp. MarsilioFicino."Classical Quarterly. 1935. Michelangelo. 1212. see Kristeller. 3. 516a-517b. 45 Republic 7.hadthe same earlybackgroundas Michelangeloin the household of Lorenzothe Magnificent. which seem to referto the same Christianized.. following Shorey. An Introductionto Plato's Republic. B. WhatPlato Said.The CopernicanRevolution. including works by VittoriaColonna and Michelangelo himself (see Universite de Bruxelles. see OperaOmnia. Berkeley. 172-230. The description of the "fettered"prisoners also bears comparison with Michelangelo's bound Slaves from the scheme for the Julius tomb. 1068 ("sol visibilis solis ad Deum").De Sole. R Shorey.1968.Republic. M. pp. 1031. book 12. ForFicino. 46-a revised version of his 1944 edition)and MarsilioFicino. J. has been reproduced in a limitedfacsimile edition in 1959. Book 6. 517a (Since space does not allow full discussion of what is considered to be "reality" Plato. 1957. 1970. New York. Republic.. 239.Plato in the ItalianRenaissance.Charlesde Tolnay. W. Allen. Republic itself (ibidem. 4. 1324 and 1351). 100-107. p.1967. pp. new series. Shapiro. 1974. speech 2. Philosophy of Ficino. 265-274). Guthrie. Philosophyof MarsilioFicino. MarsilioFicino: The Philebus Commentary. 1. London.). (The present hypothesis is naturallyless concerned with the nuances of modern discussion of Plato's analogy than with its basic idea. 22-32. pp.1984." Classical Quarterly. pp. J. chapter 5 (as in n. T. K. Nieto. Painter. " Forfurtherdiscussion of Ficino's dependence on Republic 6 for his Sun-Deityimagery. 2 (1963).Mass. It is not only Ficino'svery wide use of the Sun-Deityanalogy in his writings. "Understandingthe Good: Sun. A. of course. 98f and 233.De Amore. cit. 49 Republic 7. nor is this essential for by a basic understandingof the metaphor. 8. The Platonism of Marsilio Ficino. "TheNeoplatonic Movement and Michelangelo. II."The Art Bulletin 61 . J. Republic. (Editionused in the present study: Plato. Bruxelles. Mysteries.1959). p.A Historyof GreekPhilosophy.TheologicaPlatonicade Immortalitate 1975 (reprintof 1559 ed. 46 and 134 (see Opera Omnia. Rahnercomments on the likelihoodthat Plato's metaphor of the Cave is relatedto ancient solar GreekMyths and Christian beliefs (Rahner. 4 and idem. Le Soleil a la Renaissance.as in n. pp.pp.Structure and Thoughtin the Paradiso. Hankins. 1280).) 46 Republic 7. pp. 129-131 and 134-135.its relationto earlier scientific theory and neoplatonic ideas. 1933. 1313). E. E.see for example Valdes' Considerationes (in J. for full discussion of ideas briefly touched on in the preceding notes (34-37 above).) 48 Republic 7. Colloque Internationale. Allen. esp.Shorey. B. "Sun. The Hague. 1975. pp. Juan Vald6sand the Origins of the Spanish and Italian Reformation. pp. Divided Line and Cave."). passim) and further references as cited in Shrimplin. eds. chapters 2-6 (easily accessible in Renaissance Philosophy. II. B. see Opera Omnia. Solar imagery was popular in the literatureand poetry of the Renaissance. esp. Cratylus (ibidem. common in EarlyChristian art. Turin. Fallico.2 vols. pp. London. 3 above). Ficinus. See also N. B. ed. References also occur in Ficino'scommentaries on Plato's Theatetus (Opera Omnia. figs. esp. 41 Ficino. esp. Kristeller. It appears significant that the commissioning Popes.1. 507a509d. Collins. pp. pp. A. Lineand Cave Again. platonic concept (see Tolnay.Sir ErnstGombrich. caput 3. pp. 1155-1156. and. chapter 10. 303. see for example. New York. 76-77. vol. 1442 and 1474). esp. 35 Literary sources for Christas Sun-symbol are to be found in Dante's Divina Commedia.EdgarWindand Anthony Blunt. 2 vols. However.Forsimilarallusions in the TheologicaPlatonica. Annas. Kuhn. Harmondsworth. 503-520. Brill. 39 Much of the discussion on Michelangelo and neoplatonism was produced in the 1940's by writers like ErwinPanofsky. Clement VIIMedici and Paul III Farnese.the word "real"is here used in inverted commas..Platonism of MarsilioFicino.Hildesheim. Ferguson. TheRepublic.see Kristeller.. Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology. discussed by A. esp. 223-256). For succinct further explanation and discussion of Plato's metaphor of the Cave. 89). A. ed.). 1561-62. J. pp. H.Laws (ibidem. 1978-1982. 1025-27. bonum ipsum per solis For imaginem figuravit"). esp. 278-286. Cambridge. book 6).New York. 91 and 93). The Secular is Sacred. in the Philebus Commentary. 1526) and. esp.Loeb. 1986. II.PlanetaryAstronomyin the Development of WesternThought. 1. it still remains ratherdifficultof access (MarsilioFicino. Allen.S. of course. more recently. vol. Dallas. p. Timaeus(ibidem. Koestler. 518a-518d. Plato. 1215. 43 Forspecific references toRepublic6 (on the Sun and the Good) in Ficino's Commentaryon the Parmenides. 1 (1953).Although the 1576 Basel edition of Ficino'sOperaOmnia. The Sleepwalkers. esp. 188-93. and compare Plato. New York. pp. 1st printed 1914-1935. R. 118-141). which have made Ficino's writings more easily available since the 1970's and which have yet to be fully considered as to essential background Michelangelo-and indeed to the Renaissance in general.reprint1985. 230-239. ibidem. Republic. this see also M.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN gustinian Interpretationof Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling. C. For Sun-Deity imagery in Ficino's treatise on PseudoDionysius. 109. p. 1981. Forreferences imago dei").Harmondsworth. PhilosophyofMarsilioFicino. Geneva. Baldick. 514a (translationstaken from Shorey). 15. Oxford. Radice and R. 223 and 384. 1231-32. 145 and 261. Jayne and M. chapter 2 (in S. For revival of the concept during the Catholic Reformation.Architect.Cambridge. esp. ed. 2. 514a-517b. Allen.Michelangelo.1. 1985. esp. pp. and its pre-publicationdissemination. 1097 ("comparativo to Republic 6 in Ficino on Plotinus. Ficino'sreference is to Plato. For references to Sun-Deity imagery in Ficino's writings. 1406-1408for section on Republic. Sophist (ibidem. 242-272. 1241 ("ideo Plato in sexto de Republica. Paradiso XXX-XXXIII Flanders(see Dunbar. Jayne.1964. see Opera Omnia.. coupled with translations of key works. II. pp. book 1. passim. 40 De Amore. De Sole. 47 Republic 7. those known as the Dying Slave.see RP The reprint.) Plato. 117 and 186-87."inStudies in Iconology. "Sun. J. vol. 118. chapter 6). see Radice and Baldick (eds. pp. Symbolism in Medieval Thought. visibilis imago Dei. see esp. Panofsky. Chicago. The Italian Philosophers. 3. pp.etc. 1963). there has been a significantincrease in the amount of scholarshipon Ficino. J. pp.p. Platonism and Thomism in Marsilio Ficino's Platonic Theology. 1043. vol.1. see ibidem. 1221. and TheRebellious Slave. 36 ForMichelangelo's interest in neoplatonism.but his specific and acknowledgedsource of Plato's Republic 6 (and Michelangelo's likelyawareness of this) which is relevant here. A History of Man's Changing Visionof the Universe. II. Mazzeo. Commentaryon Plato's Symposium on Love. 2. 1293). pp. The actual depiction of Christas a beardless Apollonian figure was. p. pp. O." pp. cit. II.13. J.1. For Ficino on God as the Good. see (interalia). pp. pp. pp.ed. chapters 5.see Marsilius Animorum. Berkeley. Shorey (ed.Sculptor. p. J. Robb. text and translation. Opera Omnia. 38 See Shrimplin.1984. B.1990. MarsilioFicino. 37 On Copernican heliocentricity. 1047 ("sol ut putat Plato noster. for of the Florentineneoplatonists' interpretationand Christianizing ma42 106 .. 230-238.1972 (1930). 26 and 31. Raven. Line and Cave. 50 For discussion of Ficino's comments on Plato's metaphor of the Cave.
pp. 88). Goldscheider. 83-84).Wohl.). 166) and no doubt further references will come to light in due course. Alexander.. 285. Reau. and p. vol. 1975. connected with Plato's Sun-Cave metaphoris his so-called "DividedLine" symbol (Republic7. by mid 1533 (quoted ibidem. 517-530.. 157. 26).Michelangelo. 1592 "ex speculo concavo ad solem"). See also Ficino's commentary on Plotinus's Enneads (Opera Omnia. p. Miniatoal Tedesco was recorded by the artist himself and is very likelyto have been the date of the first discussions for the new project (see Tolnay.Michelangelo. Painting. p. 57 lbidem. 1976. Hartt binationof Christian and neoplatonicthemes on the Sistine ceiling. Condivi mentions "whathe had already begun in Clement's time" (A. Worldof Michelangelo. Michelangelo e la Controriforma. cit. 344f. 1984. 1. 1958. n.. Work 74 It is interesting to consider other representations of Caves in Christian iconography which might have been related to similar themes. 75 and 83). 65 lbidem. Michelangelo's meeting with Pope Clement VIIat S. 1983. Elton (ed."see Tolnay. ed. 1396-1438. 1978. Timaeus (p. chapters 1 and 7. 434-437. 422-423 and 430. esp.trans.Vasari. see C. Historyof Italy. London.Disputationes. The and ed.Hartt. esp. 67 lbidem. vol. 52 Republic 7. 1975-88. Bull. Work Times. 286). 532c. p. cit. "Michelangelo'sLast Judgment. 3 (1973). Chastel.pp. 66 Guicciardini. B." p.Michelangelo. 312 and 294.Inboth cases. p. esp. ed. Marsile Ficin et /'Art. London. 54 Otherprecise references to Plato's Cave and Republic7 occur in particularly Ficino'scommentaries onPhilebus (OperaOmnia. "FirstReactions to the Ceiling. pp. p. Forsuccinct comment on the "Turkish problem"see New CambridgeHistory. ed. For platonism in the gospel of St John. Even though it is not literally"fettered.. vol. Architecture. The Interpretationof the Fourth Gospel. 5 on p. Michelangelo.dated 17th November 1536 (reproducedin Redigde Campos. The Sistine Chapel. Historyof Italy. see G. 181. L. 340 and 355-356. II. 1972 (1953). London). Ramsden also refers to the period as "relativelypeaceful"and to "the of triumph" the marriagetreaty with France (E. p.Harmondsworth. p. and Times. 1568. LastJudgment. 2. and book 16 (ed. p. 303). 31.Michelangelo. 208. who recommends "caution"in platonic readings of Michelangelo's work (p. 127). 164. Historyofl taly (firstpublished 1561). 68 Ibidem. pp. 2. 201. p. pp.1. (or. General references to Republic in Ficino's works are fartoo numerous to mention. 401-405. For the Sack of Rome itself. 76 R. esp. Redig de Campos.Chiin cago.Murray.Orationon the Dignity of Man. p. 1963. London. II. Cambridge. 1. Forthe Treaties Pico dell Mirandola. nakedfigure is depicted and other human figures are seen escaping outwards and upwards into the brightness of the Sun above. G. Steinberg. 440. 107 . "The Line of Fate in Michelangelo's Paintings. Ramsden. 1230.and the Cave of the Entombment."the rearview of a clearly human. The theme was also referredto by the neoplatonist Cristoforo Landino. pp. pp. 1984. Geneva."in Chastel et al. R. pp.and ed. 1406-1408 (on Republic 6) and pp. de Maio. p. 59 Pico della Mirandola. p. 509d-511d). pp. completed in 1994. pp. and Laws (p. H. perhaps. The Letters of Michelangelo.Letters (trans. pp. * F Guicciardini. 63 De Vecchi. and R. II."ArtHistory. Michelangelo. 97). The Sistine Chapel. 69 Guicciardini. Condivi. Waddington. Christemerges from the Cave for the Salvation of mankindfrom ignorance and darkness. esp. pp. 60 Although previously blackened by smoke from the altar candles. Dodd. New Haven. H. pp. p. vol. part 2. 78-79 where he refers to Plato's Republic. figures of human souls as well as demons are clearly discernible. 51 Republic 7. Last Judgment. 378). pp. pp. 5. 1408-1412 (on Republic 7). W J. 1. 77 F. Italso appears significantthat. by Members of the Language Department. Mitchell. 73 Cited by Murray. T. 5. Sculpture. de Vecchi in Chastel et al.).who appears to view Christianreadings as alternatives to the platonic. 113. 1553. where he gives a full translationof Plato's text (ed. vol. Lives of the Artists.1971. 753-754. 1485. 72 Forother similarcontemporary "visualreadings. 3.. A Psychoanalytic Study of his Life and Images. 55 Theologia Platonica. 398. 514-516.HELLIN MICHELANGELO'S LAST JUDGMENT jor tenets of platonic philosophy. among others)."Michelangelo's Last Judgment. S. passim. 19 and 99. 8-35. 1473). p. 69-86.4 vols. 75 Tolnay. 1526). 1231)." in Chastel et al. 70 Vasarialludes to the work as having been commissioned by Clement VIIand to "inventionswhich had been decided" (G. 1561-1562 in conjunction with Republic 6. 196-199. 345. The Sistine Chapel. Coughland. vol. and see also pp. Garin. citing Chastel."Butthe Cave itself and the fire within are very prominent. 176 and n.. appendix.Lifeof Michelangelo. Cambridge. in Fallico (ed. n. Complete Worksof Michelangelo. in conjunction with Republic 6. p."in TheLanguage ofArt. vol. See also R. 71 De Vecchi in Chastel et al. Michelangelo. Liebert. pp. L. 520) and Hall. Renaissance Philosophy. London.School of Economic Science. 1980. 58 of Barcelona and Cambrai. Chastel. p. 532a-533a. 56 See MarsilioFicino. pp. p.) Renaissance Philosophy. 268). for example book 6.Rome. books 2 and 10) seem to receive the most attention. p. 1520-59. pp. An oft-quoted letter of Sebastiano del Piombo to Michelangelodated 17th July 1533 clearly demonstrates that a large new commission was projected at this time." Salmi. 25. II. 257-259. See also E. 61 Certainfeatures of Plato's cave are admittedly not present in or Michelangelo's Cave. and Michelangelo. Whether any correspondence may be traced between the Divided Line and the arrangement of Michelangelo's fresco must be a matterfor furtherinvestigation. 1207. 53 For Ficino's Commentary on Plato's Republic. 3 on p. 176 and also."Thinker. reproduced in Fallico (ed. 5. p. Letterto Ermolao Barbaro. 38. 55-59 (letter no. This conditionwas improved with the cleaning of the fresco. p. figs. Chastel. 58-59."Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. H. 408-412. 417f. See also the motu proprio of Paul III. 384-398.5. but books 6 and 7 (alongside. Iconographie. already cited above.Michelangelo. p. 440 (which contrasts with the way in which it has so often been termed "a period of catastrophe"). The Reformation. 273-286. Chronicle. His Life.3rd June.New Jersey. 152-153. respectively pp. The Sistine Chapel. such as the Cave of the Nativity(more commonly depicted as cave than stable in the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church). 425. 2. and questions Michelangelo's neoplatonism (Hall. p.Oxford. p. 3. pp. see Opera Omnia. 72. pp. esp. 1975. 22 (cited by A. Life. There are no "artefacts" moving systems between the figure and the fire which it seems to face and there are also a number of figures which are clearly "devils. more popularly.also New Cambridge Modern History. figs. 62 A. Translatedfrom the Original Tuscan."TheSun at center: Structureand meaning in Pico della Mirandola's Heptaplus. vol."The Evidence for the Scaffolding of the Sistine Ceilcomments on the coming. by L. New Cambridge Modern History.