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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 Judgment1 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
Photo: VaticanMuseums. (<Last Judgment). fresco (13.Rome.7 x 12. Sistine Chapel. 1536-41.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 1) Michelangelo. 84 . VaticanCity.2m).
HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT 2) Cosmas Indicopleustes. Vatican Library. Photo: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.699) sixth century. 85 . Gr. (<Last Judgment)). Rome. detail from Christian Topography(Vat.
Pinacoteca. Photo: Archivio Pinacoteca Nazionale.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 3) Unknown Bolognese artist. Bologna. 14th century. panel. Bologna. 86 . <(Last Judgment)).
Sta MariaAssunta. it normally lies partially hidden behind the altar cross and six massive candlesticks [Fig. 12]. nor in the scene at bottom right do the torture scenes common in medieval depictions of Hell occur.. symbolic meaning. in order. due partly. 12th century. as in Michelangelo's time. 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 4) (Last Judgment.10 Michelangelo rather chose to depict a psychological despair in his vision of the damned hurled into Hell.mosaic. as has already been mentioned.. but in the Divina Commedia. and "Hell"appears less as a physical place than as a psychological state of mind. Inthis context. If the Last Judgment in the west was to signify the end. Christ'ssinister). 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.7 almost invariably see Hell removed to the viewer's right (i. directly over the altaritself. 4 and 5] and also at Florence in the Baptistery dome. but contrasting. Michelangelo'sLastJudgment poses a special problem since. it became more frequently depicted upon portablealtarpieces as opposed to fresco or mosaic. as well as in the original classical sources for these figures. it seems specifically to avoid the awkward and undesirable location of Hell directly over the altar.5 The opposing orientation of the altar to the east. Figures of condemned souls [for example. Portable altarpieces of the Last Judgment might thus no longer possess a western orientation.Altarpieces of this type. then the altar in the east naturally signified the new beginning. this tendency appears also to have been reinforced in examples of the Last Judgment. Dante's Inferno has been acknowledged as the source for the figures of Charon [Fig. towards the sun-rise. popular in earlier versions of the subject are clearly avoided by Michelangelo. the artists at Pisa and Florence or even by Giotto.8it is simultaneously situated on the west wall of the chapel as well as the altarwall. exemplified by the series by FraAngelico in Italy[Fig.8]. 11] and Minos [Fig.This appears to be related to the custom of separating the saved and the damned on Christ's right and left hand respectively.e. In addition.7] or Rogiervan der Weyden in northern Europe. life and salvation through Christ's sacrifice. but would normallybe situated at or on the east wall or altar. especially in medieval Italy. Duringthe Renaissance. yet a "Cave of Hell"is also.it seems. In neither Michelangelo's central cave. according to Matthew 25:3334. Here. Fig. owing to the reverse orientation of the Sistine Chapel. A figure representing Avarice appears weighed down by his money bags and the key to his treasure [Fig. 6]. At this time. Torcello. also had significant. depicted in the center of the lower edge of the fresco. The arrangement is particularlynoticeable at Torcelloand Padua [Figs. Fig. a unique position for a Last Judgment fresco. Vivid portrayals of red hot tongs and cauldrons of boiling oil. strangely. 10] show the horror and devastation of those doomed to eternal damnation far more clearly than the worm-eaten skeletons of the medieval imagination.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. Charon is situated quite emphati87 .LASTJUDGMENT INMICHELANGELO'S HELL est register [for example.
VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 5) Giotto. 1305. c. Photo: Scala. Arena Chapel. 88 . fresco. Padua. ((LastJudgment)).
1 5 ty m West P . ~ Wes Potl O '. '4 .1 5fi%.1 d +.4 *--!g?rr~ 6.typnm Pai. .16-15..Prs 6)((LastJugment)). _.HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT .NteDae ht:BblohqeNtinl.~~~~~~~~~~~~. r. i i i 89 . :?I~~~~~j _w*S .> *: '' . : W-t 'p1 ' '-vr i 6)(LatJdget)...:I I_ ' t i*..._j _ "8t.
Photo: Vatican Museums.. Photo: Scala.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN "1 L 7) FraAngelico (otherwise attributed to Zanobi Strozzi). in front of the Cave. <(Last Judgment)). /%^Ds^scci. Marco. piece.i^"TLA 8) Altar of the Sistine Chapel. 1440. 90 . San cm. c. altarx 105 310 Museo di Florence.
Avarice. 91 . <(Last Judgment)). detail.LASTJUDGMENT HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S 9) Michelangelo. Photo: Vatican Museums.
cally at the entrance to Hell.1 It thus appears that "Hell"as such is not actually depicted here in the fresco. Photo: Scala..VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 10) Michelangelo.. ((LastJudgment. The damned are being directed towards the entrance of Hell which is clearly denoted by Minos beyond the very bottom right hand corner. and Minos also stands near the entrance. not in Hell itself. detail of Damned Soul. but exists somewhere beyond and below the picture space in the bottom right 92 hand corner. Its presence is suggested rather than directly portrayed by the distant fires and the anguish of the figures. In no way can they be read as . examining the sins of those who enter.
((Last Judgment)). 12) Michelangelo. With the aid of Marcello Venusti's copy of 1549 [Fig. are being propelled. Steinberg describes the problem as quite "baffling. Minos. detail. although blackened by smoke from the altar candles beforethe recent restoration programme. ((Last Judgment)). detail. 13].13for. 1543. 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. the Cave itself and the arrangement of certain figures within it.HELL INMICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT 11) Michelangelo. sufficiently so as to suggest independent significance and meaning. together with a central fire. most art historians simply tend to pass it by and the few who refer to it seldom agree. those ejected from Charon's boat. feeding into the central "Hell-cave"[Fig. 93 . Photo: Vatican Museums. are clearly discernible. Photo: Vatican Museums. 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. 1562. 14] and engravings by della Casa.12 Some authors draw attention to the puzzling matter of hell being situated over the altar. The two scenes seem quite separate. Nicholas Beatrizet." As he further points out. Charon.
Tolnay. detail. 1569 [Fig. who examines the problem in depth. and Martinus Rota. and that Hell is actually a separate area at lower right. Photo: Vatican Museums. showing Hell. for example. the arrangement in the Cave becomes even clearer. Referring to it as a "grotto. (<LastJudgment)). gives just five lines to his discussion of this area. amongst all his lengthy analysis of the fresco. lower zone.18 He finds the idea of Limbo proposed by Tolnay .17 That these alternative explanations of the curious Cave over the altar appear unacceptable has already been demonstrated by Steinberg. Giovanni Baptista de' Cavalieri.'5 alternative possibilities of its representing Limbo or Purgatory have also been discussed." 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. 1567. 15].VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 13) Michelangelo. The idea that the Cave represented Purgatory was also proposed by Stendhal and Delacroix in the early nineteenth century.'4 Although this Cave has been designated as "Hell" or "Hellmouth"by a large number of those writers who mention it specifically.
Photo: Scala. copy of the (Last Judgment)) of Michelangelo. 1549. 95 . Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte.LASTJUDGMENT HELL INMICHELANGELO'S 14) Marcello Venusti. Naples.
has been established. as a reference to the efficacy of the Mass in the saving of souls. over the altar of the Sistine chapel which has long puzzled scholars. 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."29 This could us with a source and reason for immediately provide all to and Michelangelo's placing Hell. where "He erected a Cross as a sign of Victory. which is the sign of Victory and it shall remain there forever. 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.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. therefore. in or"Michelangelo's Last Judgment as MercifulHeresy. since fire and flames. alongside the Limbo/Purgatory approach. in spite of the argument established by Stendhal and Delacroix. Chronologically. as in the versions by Venusti [Fig. the existence of Purgatory was a controversial issue in the mid-sixteenth century and regarded by many Catholics as mere medieval superstition."30 Such an interpretationof the Cave over the altar would confirm a majortheme of the fresco as one of hope. depictions of the Last Judgment were occasionally combined with Christ's Descent into Hell. One which was touched on by Steinberg was the idea of Christ's role in Hell and it is important to remember here that.g. one of which was situated directly over the altar. 8]). 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 "Cave" in question bears no resemblance whatsoever to Dante's familiarseven-storey edifice as described in Purgatorio21 and Dante's concepts. 4]. for 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. contrary expectation tradition. In addition to the various interpretations of the problem outlined above.28 and the second part of this gospel is almost totally concerned with the visit of Christ to Hell.26 Contemporary interest in the Gospel of Michelangelo to make such a positive statement on its significance. The theme was propagated in the West through the Speculum of Vincent of Beauvais and the Legenda Aurea of Jacobus de Voragine. As Reau points out. since.22 Having thus discounted the explanation of the "Cave of Hell"over the altar in terms of Limboor Purgatory. as at Torcello [Fig. In addition.. clearly evident in the fresco. in traditional iconography. the presence of positive aspects . but the Gospel of Nicodemus remained the major source.19 However. The Descent into Hell of Christ is not mentioned in the New Testament. Fig.23 Steinberg also dismisses this alternative reading of one single area of Hell. as he rightly shows. 14] and Rota [Fig. Steinberg demonstrates that their aim appears in this to be the creation of one "entity"of Hell.27 The popularity of the Gospel of Nicodemus itself has been demonstrated by Stechow. and recent studies demonstrate "the decisive rejection of any reading centred too one-sidedly on its terrifyingaspects. as part of the Apocrypha. Since the altarwould always carry a Cross in the center (shown in many photographs [e. also. 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 Pieta. 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..This is partof what he views as "Merciful Heresy. this is clearly not the intention of the fresco itself."3' . it has also recently been proposed as a source for art in the 1530's and 40's. victory and salvation through the powerful Christas much as of the gloom and despair of the damned. 15]."25 96 Nicodemus in Renaissance Rome has received some attention. The representation of Purgatory in art was extremely rare. derived from the Divina Commedia are recognized as being very closely followed elsewhere in the fresco. He then proceeds to build on his earlier well known paper. it appears that other possibilities exist for the explanation of this "baffling" problem. as Steinberg also relates. The struggle between angels and devils for human souls in that region appears apt. and that the punishments offered are not everlasting but remedial. as well as the idea of purging by fire which is depicted within the Cave itself. it appears for the first time in the Gospel of Nicodemus. play no part there.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN inept. De Vecchi has noted that this type of more optimistic reading of the fresco has become increasingly discussed.20 It was perhaps unlikely. The idea of Purgatory appears to be equally unlikely. The positioning of Purgatory at the site of the altar could be deemed appropriate."24 der to develop his own interpretationbased on the concept that "Hell"as represented in Michelangelo's fresco is a temporary hell.
Photo: Bibliotheque Nationale..~~aP -..~:.. Bibliotheque Nationale.. 4:. copy of the (Last Judgment} of Michelangelo..:- ?' . engraving. ?L~r--~ ~ I* r? 15) Martinus Rota. .r. Paris. 1569. .~/'~.--' ..:.. 97 .. Paris.-.HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT ? '.-t .t'l'~~-.. : .
37 Michelangelo's exposure to Copernicus' theory of the heliocentric universe.43 the De Sole.38 For Michelangelo. the Good.32 This concept has recently been fully examined in a paper.. a major source for neoplatonic Sunsymbolism was the work of Ficino. Philebus. not to mention As in theDe Amore and his commentary on Republic itself. Ficino mentions and discusses this at several points in his writings.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. The readtype. For he compares the sun and God to each other. he refers specifically to the writings of Plato. has ing of Christ. 1484). but. especially in chapters 9 and 11. "Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo's Last Judgment.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. in which neoplatonism played a major role.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- . Timaeus and Laws. He writes. since his formative years spent in the house of Lorenzo de' Medici has also been widely accepted. but also its recognized source in Plato's Republic 6. he specifically names Republic 6 as a key source for the concept. and.." where the apparent interweaving of different themes in the fresco has been emphasized according to Michelangelo's subtle synthesis of religious.33 It was demonstrated that Michelangelo had access to the traditional Christian association of light and Sun-symbolism with the Deity. which was to some extent undergoing a revival amongst the Catholic reformers with whom he was associated. warmth and life itself. the original source of this comparison between the Sun and the Deity lay in the writings of Plato himself.the TheologiaPlatonica (1481).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.42 Similar specific allusions occur in his commentaries on the Parmenides. but neoplatonic ideas. where the Good (Agathon) is compared directly with the Sun."40 Ficino also traces the ancient sources for the Sun-Deity analogy in his tractDe Sole (1493) and here. again. by whom all things are made. with the neoplatonic concept and its origins.. as in his translations of the third-century neoplatonist Plotinus. We certainly infer this comparison from the sixth book of Plato's On the Republic".36 Finally. it does seem highly likelythat he must have been aware of Ficino's writings and. and the influence of neoplatonism upon Michelangelo. Ficino demonstrates how Plato extends the metaphor to embrace the notion of the sun as the source of light.35 also reinforce this theme of the Sun-Deity analogy. "Not without reason does Dionysius compare God to the sun. In his Commentary on Plato's Symposium (otherwise known as the De Amore. All these references serve to demonstrate not only the prevalence of the Sun-Deity analogy. and he says that the light of the intellect for understanding all things is the same God himself. Ficino again refers widely to the Sun-Deity analogy. 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. Ficino also acknowledges the significance of Plato's Republic 6. Without claiming direct great scholarly knowledge by Michelangelo of Ficino's Latintexts.41 In his treatise on Pseudo-Dionysius' De Divinis Nominibus. and particularlySun-symbolism and cosmology do seem to have influenced the Last Judgment. neoplatonic.depicted as a beardless "Apollonian" become immensely popular and almost ubiquitous in the literaturefrom the time of the writings of Tolnayin the 1940's. hence. and the probable significance of neoplatonic Sun-symbolism in the formation of the iconography of the Last Judgment. which has become widely discussed as a major theme in the fresco. Evidence for Michelangelo's interest in neoplatonism need not be repeated in detail here. 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.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. in his own tract. while at the same time being incorporated with Catholic reforming ideas. where Plato's Republic 6 is again cited as a specific source.. 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."Butin the Sixth book on the Republic that divine man [Plato] explains the whole thing. for Ficino (as perhaps also for Michelangelo).. literary and purely scientific sources for the theme. Evidence thus suggests that Plato's Sun metaphor appears to have been utilized by Michelangelo as a source for the Sun-Christ in his Last Judgment fresco. which was widely circulated. the light of understanding and of Knowledge-in short. later.
by its own light. "All sciences. the Sun-Christ is depicted as Ficino's "vision of brilliance. Apartfrom Ficino's own writings and letters. perhaps."as in Republic 6. as well as in his Heptaplus. 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. God.49 Plato's Cave. Republic 7 is again specifically discussed and translated at several points. able to see only the shadows cast on the wall of the cave by moving objects or artefacts.56Although Plato's use of the metaphor had educational significance in the context of the training of the Guardians of the Republic. . where it is a major theme. especially in the Gospel of St John. then the Cave at the lower edge might plausibly possess an association with the Cave of Republic 7. Plato's Cave is thus directly related to the symbolism of the sun as an analogy with the Good or God.IN MICHELANGELO'S HELL LASTJUDGMENT pears partly to be dependent. Timaeus and Laws.48The last and most difficult thing to perceive is the idea of the Good-the Sun itself. In particular. where the presence of platonic influence has been observed. Ficino comments particularlyon its spiritual meaning."52 Plato says. as for example. rising from utter folly to the vision of brilliance. but then the human soul becomes accustomed to the light and is enveloped in its warmth and goodness. This process allegorically represents the contemplation of higher things (the Good. which is strengthened by his references to it elsewhere in his writings. Ficino's own translation and commentary on the Republic places an emphasis on the combined Sun-Cave metaphor. may thus in turn explain Michelangelo's depiction of a Cave immediately above the altarof the Sistine chapel. in Michelangelo's fresco. as stated. the sun makes its own realm or self intelligible.47 The men of Plato's cave are to be freed and "drawnout into the light of the sun. Plato demonstrates how these "perpetualprisoners"may be freed. when explaining the allegory.59 In the center of the lower edge of Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgment the large Cave is clearly defined.58 Pico also referred specifically to Plato's metaphor of the Cave in his writings. their situation in the cave is symbolic of human bondage and ignorance. which demonstrates contemporary knowledge of this passage. and it is often cited in conjunction with the Sun metaphor of Republic 6. as well as in Ficino's work on Plotinus.."57If. may also be regarded as having been influentialupon Michelangelo'sLast Judgment fresco as a whole. as part of the main Sun-Deity theme in the fresco.54In the Theologia Platonica. These shadows they take for "reality. is that which directs the soul to the contemplation of what is best amongst reality. according to Ficino) and by this means. Some figures peer from the gloom. The idea of the Sun-Deity analogy occurs in his famous Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486). than some of Plato's more complex notions. Light symbolism is frequently used in the Bible. Plato begins his famous description of the Cave: "Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern. It is dependent upon the way in which. as such.51 Here. the soul can escape its bonds and ascend to the intelligible region.45Plato's metaphor of the Cave is inextricably linked with the Sun metaphor of his previous section and. further evidence 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 progress from Cave to sunlight is emphasized and the key is said to be conthis procedure of the arts and templation and education. Pico dell Mirandola(1463-94)." 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). Ficino's letter to the theologian Angiolieri incorporates Ficino's"wordfor word"translationof Plato'stext. And here he refers back to the Sun-metaphor which dominates his previous section and which. 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.50 The same analogy of the Cave is again stressed by Plato in a later section of Republic 7." At first the light of the sun blinds them even more."Philosophy can enable them to become free by drawing them out in painfulascent 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."46and then goes on to describe men who sit fettered with their backs to a fire.. 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." Simply stated. A clearly human presence is suggested by the nude back view of a figure outlined by the 99 . 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.53Other specific references to Plato's Cave and Republic 7 are to be found in Ficino's commentaries on the Philebus.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. 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. according to Plato.
Men are symbolically freed by coming out into the light of the Sun-Deity. might be considered as capable of possessing reference not only to the Christian Hell but also to Plato's Cave. 17) Michelangelo. in fact. outwards through a breach in the Cave and upwards towards the Sun-Christ [Fig. central fire whose glow is seen in the depths [Fig. 17].61 . ((LastJudgment))."Hell" itself seems. 16]. are figures moving away.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN 16) Michelangelo. showing figures moving outwards and upwards. The figures close by the Cave are clearly not being drawn into it (feet first). Photo: Vatican Museums.60 This Cave." but they are being propelled (on the right hand side of the 100 fresco) in a completely different direction. then. Charon and Minos. Photo: Vatican Museums. hardlyto be depicted in the fresco at all. situated in the extreme lower right-handcorner are avowed. The idea of figures "coming out" of the Cave appears far more appropriate to Plato's Cave than to the ChristianHell: the notion of "escape" from Plato's Cave is more logical than any idea of the damned escaping from the ChristianHell. to the viewer's left. as has already been pointed out. Outside the Cave. by both ancient writers and by Dante to be situated at the entrance to Hell. detail of Cave area. travelling upwards towards the Sun-Christ. detail of nude in Cave. since. These who have been damned are not being pulled into this "Cave of Hell. but rather coming out of it. <(Last Judgment)).
The shameful captivity of the Pope was followed by rebellion in Florence. was "within the space of a few months . the Pope experienced "incredible joy" over a marriage treaty with France. had suffered terribly and the fresco has frequently been read as a symbolic representation of this catastrophe which severely affected the whole of Rome. Clement "returnedto Rome with the greatest reputation and marvellous happiness. when the earliest preliminary discussions concerning the commission were made. after his returnfrom an immensely successful visit to France. therefore. The Emperor showed respect to Clement VIIin their meeting at Bologna (November 1529). before Michelangelo's fresco was even completed). incarcerated in surroundings where light appears only as a reflection . 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. as Guicciardini tells us. Pope Clement had come out of the darkness into the light in the years 15281533. as mentioned above.67Thus at the time of the commission of the Last Judgment in 1533. especially in the eyes of those who had seen him prisoner in the Castel Sant' Angelo.69As in the metaphor of Plato's Cave. and there was still hope for reconciliation with the German protestants.Clement VIIde' Medici. In addition. according to continued through 1530-32. by the forces of the EmperorCharles V. which displeased the Pope because he feared loss of power. In an historical context. "tranquillity" departure of the Turksfrom Europe in 1532 removed yet another threat. Although. Clement VII had great hopes of resolving the political and theological problems with which he was faced.who peer out from the darkness of a cave-like space [Fig. Inthe recent publication following the restoration of the ceiling frescoes.68InDecember 1533. to fit in well with the historical circumstances of the fresco's creation. Too sophisticated to portray a medieval Hell of torture. 1533. as Guicciardini relates. who inaugurated the commission. namely that of the secession of the English Church under Henry VIII in 1533. and he also assisted Clement in quelling the rebellion in Florence in 1530. However. than numerous earlier references to its dark desperate atmosphere. 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.and the Treaty of Cambrai(August 1529) between the Emperorand the King of France (partly arranged by the Papal agents Cardinals Salviati and Schonberg). been held in captivity and suffered the loss of Rome and his dominions.. it has often been argued that the Last Judgment reflects the aura of pessimism and despair of the time of its creation. The Sack of Rome had taken place six years earlier and marked a particularlybad time for Italyand the Pope. 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. outbreaks of plague and a humiliating peace treaty. the Pope was once more in a strong position. who had fallen from power. Clement VIIwas actually on his way to France to negotiate the marriage of his niece Catherinede' Medici with a French prince."66 A call was made for a Council to reform the Church at this time..HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT 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.. caused by the notorious Sack of Rome in 1527. by 1528 the Pope. It also fits in well with recent art historical interpretation of the fresco which detects a less pessimistic aura in the fresco. on 22nd September. these manoeuvres "putan end to the long and grave wars which had continued for more than eight years with so many horrible occurrences. Michelangelo 101 .70 This present interpretation of the Cave seems. but he was able to stave this off and.62.63Yet the contemporary historian.. for he died soon afterwards (September 1534).71 If the cosmological explanation of the Sun-symbolism in Michelangelo's Last Judgment together with its neoplatonic overtones is considered. This interpretation seems appropriate for those who lived priorto Christ. Guicciardini (1483-1540) presents a rather different picture of the situation in 1533 when the commission was actually determined. when he met Michelangelo (apparently for the first discussions on the new commission) at S. Another major problem."64 Peace was established not unfavorablyto the Pope by the Treatyof Barcelona (June 1529) between Pope and the Emperor. between Pisa and Florence. by 1533. recent scholarship has suggested a more optimistic reading of the fresco. who saw the commission "unchanged" through to its conclusion. notes our contemporary source. Clement's success was short-lived. Miniatoal Tedesco. The Guicciardini. 18]. According to Guicciardini(writingin 1537-40. was not regarded as irreversible at the time. 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.." Even allowing for the bias of the contemporary historian (and Guicciardiniwas persona non grata with the Medicis after the siege of Florence). yet it seems strange that the Cave over the altar has not been considered in the same terms. but the commission was carried out according to his wishes by his successor Paul III.65As Guicciardini relates. restored to liberty" and "once more restored to his former greatness.
. 102 . ttAncestor of Christ)). Sistine ceiling.. 18) Michelangelo.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN Z. Photo: Vatican Museums. Sistine ceiling.F. detail of lunette. 18) Ancestor of Christ. | Michelangelo. Photo: Vatican Museums. . i'. detail of lunette.
which can be related to a Christian interpretation of Plato's Republic 6. from which darkness man is to be freed to come out into the light of knowledge and truth symbolized by the Sun.73 One explanation of the placement of the Cave."75 More recently. Just as Christ conquers the darkness of Hell to set men free. In terms of Christian neoplatonism. Conversely. and Reau referred to the Last Judgment as "la paganisation de I'art Chretien. despair and spiritual death. would reinforce this latter idea. contrasting this with a later spirituality. like Rota [Fig. where it appears to be totally integrated with Christianthought. which have frequently been relegated to separate periods of Michelangelo's oeuvre. Much of the existing literature attributes neoplatonism to Michelangelo's early works.74There appears to be in Michelangelo's Cave. reason conquers the darkness of ignorance. a second is derived from Plato's Cave and its relationship with the symbol of the Sun as Deity. equated with knowledge of Christ and His sacrifice. of platonic and Christian concepts which are mutually reinforcing and also far more subtle than medieval depictions of Hell's tortures. Where the "Good" was equated with "God" by the neoplatonists. According to the above hypothesis which claims Plato's writings (through the Florentine neoplatonists) as a major influence upon the Last Judgment. The central Cave over the altar itself is representative of platonic notions of human ignorance. In Christianexegesis.Tolnayreferredto the "fundamental paganism" of the artist in his assessment of the Last Judgment. 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. Christ'svisit to Hell and his conquest represent the triumph over ignorance and evil. Anton Francesco Doni commented on the darkness of Hellwhich Michelangelo painted. perceived as the Cave of Hell. namely that of neoplatonism in his early works and Catholic influences in his later works. may thus lead to the conclusion that the cave over the altar really represents Plato's Cave (Republic 7). men are freed from the Cave of ignorance by spiritual contemplation. different aspects of the theological and philosophical influences. This concept is given Christian. The two trains of thought are not to be regarded as mutually ex103 . it might be argued that the presence of a Cave in the work.76 By contrast." Goldscheider has commented that the Last Judgment actually "marks the end of Michelangelo's pagan phase. 15]. the two concepts share the overriding theme of Salvation through knowledge of what is Good. according to the platonists. confirms the idea that the depiction of the Sun-Christ in a circularformat is related to Ficino's interpretation of Plato'sRepublic 6-an argument notable for its perfect circularity."77The evidence for neoplatonism in Michelangelo's late work of the Last Judgment. over the altar which has been discussed here has been based upon the reasoned interest of Michelangelo in Nicodemism and the Gospel of Nicodemus.72the lower areas have remained relatively dark since contemporary reports describe them as such. so. but may in fact be regarded as complementary. as elsewhere in the fresco. are combined in this late work. Hartt is among those who claim it is unrealisticto maintainthat Michelangelo had "ever been anything but profoundly religious. Liebert has and Neoplatonism" spoken of the "battlebetween 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 "profound religious conversion" at about the time of the Last Judgment. The simplistic approach which is often argued. and the platonic Sun-Deity analogy was given expression in the depiction of the Sun-Christ. then Plato's Cave might be viewed.HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT depicts a psychological state of Hell in the expressions and gestures of the damned souls who fall hopelessly towards Hell. While the upper areas had have their former brightness revealed so that they are once more perceived in terms of Sun and light. 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. the source of light and life. corresponding to Republic 7. as has been noted already in the fresco. ceases to appear valid.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. Linked with the use of the Sun-Deity analogy in the fresco. a subtle synthesis. The neoplatonic interpretationof Sun-symbolim and circularcosmology in the Last Judgment fresco. In platonic thought. in a letter to the artist in January 1543.but readings which categorize the work of this artist into simple neoplatonic or religious stages are inappropriate. in this context. and further deductions concerning Michelangelo's late period might also be made. and hence as more or less one and the same thing. This being so. despair and spiritual death. as a psychological equivalent of the ChristianHell. Neoplatonic meaning in Michelangelo's fresco as man is freed from the darkness of Hell through knowledge of the Sun-Christ. as they were by contemporary copyists and engravers. a reassessment of the common concept that Michelangelo was influenced by neoplatonism only in the earlier part of his career might be called for.
77). 1978. Shrimplin. chapter 31. where the saved and damned are sometimes placed at either end of the same horizontalregister (as at Amiens). but his interest in neoplatonic ideas surely continued at this time. Evidently Michelangelo's association with the Spirituali in the 1530's must have exerted a great deal of influence upon the artist. The Greek Myths. 120-125 where additional sources in Homer. and recently (in connection with the difference between this standard format and P de Vecchi.lconographiede l'Art Chretien. Y. 12 L. p. His birthat the winter solstice and His death and resurrectionat the Spring equinox has been discussed by such authors as H. "Imageryof the Sun-Storm God in the New Testament. and the continuation of its influence on his works even into his late period. The GothicImage. vol. Michelangelo Buonarroti. which demonstrate the widespread natureof this approach.Aeneid VI. 9 Figuresin this area appear to personify the seven deadly sins. University of the Witwatersrand. 8 Chastel et al. ment as MercifulHeresy. The 104 1 tendency towards a right/leftseparation also occurs in Frenchsculptured tympana. 365-387. The Last Judgment. FlandersDunbar. p. 6 The association between Christand the sun.Symbolism in Medieval Thoughtand its Consummationin the Divine Comedy. pp.568.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN clusive.1977. (J. more fully. Lees-Milne. p. pp.. Forfurtherdetails of the classical sources. Sistine Chapel. 1963 (esp. Harmondsworth. chapters 2 and 3. New York. 35. Chastel et al. "Michelangelo'sLastJudgArt in America. see Male. 2 vols. Princeton. include versions by Petrus Christus. 607-643 and. an idea which related to an earlier scheme proposed by Pope Clement VII. Steinberg. 1986. Pisa and Berlin.GreekMyths and ChristianMystery.St Peter's Basilica in Rome. 727-757. Ithaca. Redig de Campos. thesis of the same title. 268- . see also R. The Sistine Chapel Michelangelo Rediscovered. ForMinos. while incorporated within a Christian framework. esp.1978. 25. London.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.Odyssey XI. This is discussed by L. Aeneid VI. combined and integrated with deep Christian feeling. TheSistine Chapel.Last Judgment (painted 1536-41).76f. Male.1961.see Dante. Milan. Paris. 63 (1975) p. On the Celestial Hierarchy and On the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. "Symbolism in MedievalThought and its center in the Sun. in line with the reverse orientation of St Peter's itself. see Dante. 207-73. 1455.1961 (chapter 3.Vatican. London.R6au.7 x 12. 54 and 58 on pp. 53.1445/50. The probable reason for the reverse orientationof the Sistine Chapel. 1984." in A." 10 Forfurtherexamples and discussion of this approach.unpublished Ph.Rome.Shrimplin. chapter 4.568-572.Lees-Milnehas arguedthat itwas the interestof its founder.D. the EmperorConstantine. InfernoV.Virgiland Ovid are cited. L.2 m. The present reading of the Last Judgment would tend to reinforce the evidence for Michelangelo's neoplatonism.see. 2 For this tradition.4f.p. 8 (originally published in Italian under the title iI Giudizio Universale di Michelangelo. Pictures and Punishment." and Appendix IV. and Virgil. 1967. Edgerton."SunSymbolism and Cosmology in Michelangelo's Last Judgment. 3 vols.in V. seems to have been a continuous feature in Michelangelo's work throughout his lifetime and platonic thought was never simply a classical. See esp. "TheChristianMystery of the Sun and Moon."). 182.and H. 3 These concepts are further discussed in V. Paintingin Florenceand Siena afterthe BlackDeath. feature of his early works. New York. "The gods of the Underworld. Rahner. "ACornerof the LastJudgment. Hans Memlinc. and compare Virgil." pp. Michelangelo. Dieric Bouts. pp. Gothic Image. Neoplatonism.4 (1990). "Michelangelo'sLast Michelangelo'sown interpretation) Judgment. Comparealso D.394-401 and Homer. 109 (1980) pp. Meiss. 1. Subsequent rebuildings followed this orientation. 243-250 and nn. 5 For further discussion of French portal sculpture. Johannesburg. Northernexamples of the type. 1470. 1473. pp. 4 The disciplinaryfunction is also examined by S. 11 For Charon. part 2. Meiss argues for an increased pessimism reflected in art after the BlackDeath. 1957. chapter6. 21. or pagan and irreligious. Inferno III.") 7 Otherexamples by FraAngelico include altarpieces in Rome. see M."Daedalus. London. p. appears to be connected with solar mythology. esp. 1991. Minos is placed by Dante at the entrance to the second circle of Hell." Sixteenth CenturyJournal. London. fresco 13. 1975).which was greatly influenced by the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. E. for example. Steinberg. Graves. n. 22f.
"Sixteenth CenturyJournal.M. Hidden Michelangelo. p."as in n. 1978). pp. 548. "Corner of the LastJudgment. 13-15. vol. London. Michelangelo. Princeton. Salvini. [According to the Oxford Dictionary. London. Moller). M. 49.Katsonis. 196-199." The Art Bulletin 71. 201.Mariani. not alreadymentioned at n. p. 105 . Kristof. Inferno. S. 243. 22 Steinberg. vol. 1969. 202). 5. Ibidem. in these subsequent engravings. 47-49. 31 De Vecchiin Chastelet al.pp. "An Au21 20 '9 Ibidem. The Hidden Michelangelo. Wilde. 1975. 13 above. 1969. 125-146. vol. Murray.Lotz. pp. the Painter. see R Brieger.) how. place or condition in the next world which will continue untilthe LastJudgment.. p. 105. New York. "Corner of the LastJudgment"p.Munich. 268. London. 94-146. According to the official Catholic definition. 250: also Reau."as in n. For details of the actual cross which would have been used here in Michelangelo'stime."] Neither Limbo nor Purgatoryis explicit in the Scriptures. p. Iconographie. 1 (1989). "Michelangelo 20. 1986. His Life Work and Times..TheDivine Comedy. The Catholicdefinition of Purgatoryis "the state. Michelangelo.20 ."(New Catholic Encyclopedia). 33 Shrimplin. "Joseph of Arimatheaor Nicodemus?. pp. 245-248. The Final Period. Limbo is a term used to designate the state and place of those souls who did not merit Hell and its eternal punishments. von Einem. M Hall. This paper is concerned with Michelangelo's involvement with the Catholic Reformation from the 1530's. "The Christology of Michelangelo. Other references to the cave or mouth of Hell. p."Michelangeloand Nicodemism: The Florentine Pieta. 1973 . 289-302. Michelangelo. "Corner of the Last Judgment. The Complete Works of Michelangelo.2 (1989)."Artibus relates the Sun-Christparticularly to the Transfiguration). 1973). Michelangelo. Essai 3 (1940).Michelangelo. such as R." pp. 155). A Psychoanalytic Study of his Life and Images. pp. "Cornerof the Last Judgment..p. 30 Ibidem. See also A. while recently de Vecchi has commented that "the Mouthof Hell .idem. 3 above and unpublished Ph. and so on. 144. The issue was discussed but not resolved at the Council of Trentand remained one of the great unsettled questions. the idea of Divine Judgment. D. Liebert. vol. New York. TheMakingof an Image.. The concept repeatedly recurs in the writings of the ChurchFathers. Michelangelo Buonarroti.Michelangelo. Greenstein. Oxford.). Iconographie. Michelangelo. 15 Salvini refers to the mouths (plural)of Hell (Salvini. pp. L. 60 and 62 on p.Shrimplin. Princeton. this is a distortion of the originaldesign.1983.1905. 1966 ("Hell."Art Quarterly. 1943-60. placed exactly over the altar of the Chapel"was unlikelyto have indicated an attack on the Curia(P de Vecchi in Chastel et al. 1975. 11:1. Apollonian or sunlike Christare numerous (eg.thesis of same title. as he points out. 148.Die Sixtinische Kapelle.. infants who have died unbaptized (New CatholicEncyclopedia. New York. W.1965. see C. 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."p. p. Michelangelo. Stechow. 29 See James. pp. p.] 28 W. but could not enter Heaven before the Redemption-for example.passim.1964 ("Thismysterious cave at the center"-p. esp.London. p. von Einem. Singleton. "Merciful Heresy. 8. New York. IlluminatedManuscriptsof the Divine Comedy. 16 Tolnay. Michelangelo. G. Sculptor. 25 Steinberg. 123f. Michelangelo. London. 250f. 58-66. where the souls of those who die in the state of Grace but not yet free from all imperfectionmake expiation for unforgivenvenial sins . The Gospel of Nicodemus was also suggested by von Einemas a source for Michelangelo'sLastJudgment (H. Princeton." p. The Worldof Michelangelo. 1990  and Michelangelo. pp. 3. It is strange that he should thus acknowledge the existence of a "double" Hellwithoutconsideringor providingany theological explanation. d'interpretation. Munich. 18 Steinberg. but chronologically precede.." p. Greenstein Transfiguration. R. p. esp. 33-57. Michelangelo.. S. 1983. 9 above. 27 V. figs. New York." p. p. Dotson. Salvini. Hartt. 246. see Reau. 1973. London. Six Lectures. 5. see esp. [References to the problem are also found in more popularworks on Michelangelo. Architect. without official endorsement. W.Purgatory is a "place appointed for those who have died in grace but have sins to expiate. and nn.. pp."Michelangelo'sLast Judgment Resurrectionof the TheArtBulletin58 (1976). 249. p. 13 Redig de Campos found the term "Mouth of Hell"inappropriate (Redig de Campos.New York. 237). Ofthe few other writers (apartfrom Steinberg) who have brieflydiscussed the problem. Salmi. Hibbard.. 132 and also in Salmi. The Sistine Chapel. New York. 5 vols. Steinberg. M. 269. Dante. Wilde perceived the "Mouth of Hell at the altar"as a sign of the pessimism of Michelangelo (J. 26 For the Descent into Hell." esp.Steinmann. p. 132). p. TheApocryphal New Testament. as Nicodemus. Coughland."Sun-symbolismand Cosmology. Meiss and C. L."Merciful Heresy. includeV. 1984." p. For the Gospel of Nicodemus itself. 85-92 ("pit"Body and Predestination.L. p. pp. Michelangelo. 5. "Cornerof the LastJudgment. 762-63). 104)."'HowGloriousthe Second Coming of Christ. 245f. Other authors who comment on the beardless. n. Both are related to.Anastasis. 163-182. Complete Worksof Michelangelo. de Tolnay. and A. 1964. Hibbard.. 34 For scripturalsources.':Michelangelo's Last Judgment and the et Historiae.HELLIN MICHELANGELO'S LAST JUDGMENT 269. St Augustine whose works have been argued as influentialupon Michelangelo (E. the rejects from Charon's bark appear to be "beached" in the immediate vicinity of the "hellcave. p. 5. Mandelbaum. James. Matthew 17:2. 1969.Purgatorio. New Haven. 23 Steinberg demonstrates ("Corner of the Last Judgment.esp.1982-86. "Le Jugement Dernierde MichelAnge. right over the altar")and E. A Chronicle of Italian Renaissance Painting. Michelangelo. Forvisual images of Dante's system. see M." Studien fur ToskanischenKunst.Paradiso. Purgatorio. 257-259. and figs. J. Malachi4:2. and recently J. H. 120 ("Thecave identified by some as the Mouth of Hell"or "Limbo")]." Journal of the American Academy of Religion.von Einem. 515).D. H. Revelations 1:16.. 59-60.1964. [A similarargument has recently been independently put forward by J. 135. 21:23. pp. TheSistine Chapel. Hidden Michelangelo. n. 3 vols. 52) although this had been suggested by Steinmann (E. Dixon. pp. 91). 531f.Michelangelo ("HellMouth"-p. and by so doing are punished before they enter Heaven. London.FestschriftfOrL." 32 See C. R. 54. Michelangelo. 14 For details of these and other copies. 43. The Sistine Chapel. Camesasca. vol. Steinberg. London." but. [The Oxford Dictionarydefines Limboas a "Regionon the border of Hellassigned to those who have failed to be Christiansbecause they have not had the chance. F. See new translation(withtext) by A.esp. Michelangelo. 4 on p. 503-533 ("Mouthof Hell"p. idem.Michelangelo. see Tolnay. Heydenreich (ed. 24 Steinberg. Steinberg is also among those who present a more "optimistic"reading in his "Merciful Heresy. p. LV."] 17 Discussed by Steinberg. Chastel. Hartt. ApocryphalNew Testament. 2 vols. Painter. R. De Tolnay.
Panofsky. (Edition used in the present study: Plato. 1974. 22-32. esp. Allen. Mazzeo. Clement VIIMedici and Paul III Farnese. 3 above). 4. caput 3. J. p. The description of the "fettered"prisoners also bears comparison with Michelangelo'sbound Slaves from the scheme for the Julius tomb. 1957.1959). vol. platonic concept (see Tolnay. passim) and further references as cited in Shrimplin. It appears significant that the commissioning Popes. 242-272. Republic. Collins. pp. E. 503-520. pp. visibilis imago Dei. including works by VittoriaColonna and Michelangelo himself (see Universit6de Bruxelles. 1215.reprint1985. 47 Republic 7. 188-93. Painter. 2. 2. pp. p."inStudies in Iconology. De Sole. esp. Philosophy of Ficino. 516a-517b. ed. p. Line and Cave. Rahnercomments on the likelihoodthat Plato's metaphorof the Cave is relatedto ancient solar GreekMyths and Christian beliefs (Rahner. The Secular is Sacred.p. Berkeley. II. p. pp.see P ThePhilosophyof MarsilioFicino. B. figs.De Sole. T. 514a (translationstaken from Shorey). H. Plato. 45 Republic 7. II. 46 and 134 (see OperaOmnia.Mass. pp. vol. 1442 and 1474). pp. Paradiso XXX-XXXIII (see FlandersDunbar. Sophist (ibidem.etc. Baldick. 1975. MarsilioFicino.hadthe same earlybackgroundas Michelangeloin the household of Lorenzothe Magnificent. 4 and idem. Commentaryon Plato's Symposium on Love. has been reproduced in a limitedfacsimile edition in 1959. Nieto. new series. 278-286. see Opera Omnia. book 12.EdgarWindand Anthony Blunt. for of mathe Florentineneoplatonists' interpretationand Christianizing 42 .) 48 Republic 7. Robb. Forreferences imago dei"). 35 sources for Christas Sun-symbol are to be found in Literary Dante's Divina Commedia. London."Classical Quarterly. 145 and 261. pp. see Opera Omnia. Kuhn. pp. A. II.. Raven..Forsimilarallusions in the TheologicaPlatonica. reprint. Ferguson. 117 and 186-87. 3. The Philebus Commentary.Michelangelo.but his specific and acknowledgedsource of Plato's Republic 6 (and Michelangelo's likelyawareness of this) which is relevant here. 1985. pp. TheRepublic.2 vols. it still remains ratherdifficultof access (MarsilioFicino. ed. New York. Allen. see esp. pp. Geneva. passim. 1097 ("comparativo to Republic 6 in Ficino on Plotinus. more recently. vol. For references to Sun-Deity imagery in Ficino's writings.Loeb." Classical Quarterly. Jayne and M.1984. following Shorey. 106 For Sun-Deity imagery in Ficino's treatise on PseudoDionysius. pp. 38 See Shrimplin. 98f and 233. Colloque Internationale. Platonism and Thomism in MarsilioFicino's Platonic Theology. vol. 1975 (reprintof 1559 ed. speech 2. 15. Le Soleil a la Renaissance. 1. Turin.PlanetaryAstronomyin the Development of WesternThought. 223-256). and The Rebellious Slave. 2 (1963). Bruxelles.1964. "Sun. Mysteries. Divided Line and Cave. MarsilioFicino. esp.The Sleepwalkers. book 6). For succinct furtherexplanation and discussion of Plato's metaphor of the Cave. ForFicino. Kristeller. Michelangelo.. The Hague. pp.1972 (1930). 1970. II. those known as theDying Slave. Itis not only Ficino'svery wide use of the Sun-Deityanalogy in his writings. (The present hypothesis is naturallyless concerned with the nuances of modern discussion of Plato's analogy than with its basic idea. by writers like S. 1406-1408for section on Republic. 1221.see Marsilius Ficinus. 172-230." pp. Republic. New York. and. 41 Ficino. coupled with translations of key works. A History of Man's Changing Visionof the Universe. 1963). B. 230-238. 1241 ("ideo Plato in sexto de Republica. pp. M.1. chapter 2 (in S. 89). B. Opera Omnia.Charlesde Tolnay.Hildesheim. B. 2 vols.Although the 1576 Basel edition of Ficino'sOperaOmnia. For revival of the concept during the Catholic Reformation. see Opera Omnia."The Art Bulletin 61 . of course. Brill. J.Sculptor. Republic. text and translation.) Plato. Guthrie.S. 1313). discussed by A. chapters 2-6 (easily accessible in Renaissance Philosophy. which have made Ficino's writings more easily available since the 1970's and which have yet to be fully considered as to Michelangelo-and indeed to the Renaissance essential background in general. esp. 1526) and. in the Philebus Commentary. esp. 46-a revised version of his 1944 edition)and MarsilioFicino. 118-141). The Platonism of MarsilioFicino. esp. 43 For specific references toRepublic6 (on the Sun and the Good) in Ficino's Commentaryon the Parmenides. 265-274).A Historyof GreekPhilosophy. References also occur in Ficino'scommentaries on Plato's Theatetus (Opera Omnia. J.see Kristeller.. "TheNeoplatonic Movement and Michelangelo. 1047 ("sol ut putat Plato noster. MarsilioFicino: imaginem figuravit"). pp. p. see Radice and Baldick (eds. Annas. P Shorey. J. 1155-1156. Cambridge. Dallas. 100-107. which seem to referto the same Christianized. see Kristeller. of course. B. 26 and 31. Solar imagery was popular in the literatureand poetry of the Renaissance. Sun-Symbolism and Cosmology. However. 39 Much of the discussion on Michelangelo and neoplatonism was produced in the 1940's by writers like ErwinPanofsky. 3. K. Jayne. 44 Forfurtherdiscussion of Ficino's dependence on Republic 6 for his Sun-Deityimagery. book 1. The Italian Philosophers. esp. J.VALERIE SHRIMPLIN gustinian Interpretationof Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling. Fallico. 1981.De Amore. See also N. 1. 239. J. B. and compare Plato. Radice and R.Timaeus(ibidem. 517a (Since space does not allow full discussion of what is considered to be "reality" by Plato. Allen.1967. 223 and 384. Berkeley. Shapiro. esp. esp. 91 and 93).. 1280). 507a509d.Sir ErnstGombrich. 1293). see ibidem.Laws (ibidem. O.").TheologicaPlatonicade Immortalitate Animorum. pp. A. 50 For discussion of Ficino's comments on Plato's metaphor of the Cave. for full discussion of ideas briefly touched on in the preceding notes (34-37 above). Cambridge.) 46 Republic 7. New York. E.1. 1324 and 1351).. Chicago. pp. chapter 10. 1 (1953).1984. 1986.Platonism of MarsilioFicino. 1. pp. 1068 ("sol visibilis solis ad Deum"). 1st printed 1914-1935. An Introductionto Plato's Republic. "Understandingthe Good: Sun. cit. Shorey (ed. Harmondsworth.the word "real"is here used in inverted commas.Neoplatonism of the ItalianRenaissance. and its pre-publicationdissemination. 1043. pp. 1935. 1212. The actual depiction of Christas a beardless Apollonian figure was. 76-77. R. Republic itself (ibidem.Republic. chapters 5. 49 Republic 7. esp. esp. Lineand Cave Again.1990.its relationto earlier scientific theory and neoplatonic ideas. Philosophy of MarsilioFicino. pp. pp.see for example Valdes' Considerationes (in J. 514a-517b. Book 6.). pp. A. Symbolism in Medieval Thought. For Ficino on God as the Good.Architect. chapter 5 (as in n. WhatPlato Said. J. Hankins. see for example. 1025-27. "Sun.). pp. London.Structure and Thoughtin the Paradiso. C.The CopernicanRevolution.1968. 37 On Copernican heliocentricity. 129-131 and 134-135.New York. cit. p. 36 For Michelangelo's interest in neoplatonism. Koestler. see (interalia). nor is this essential for a basic understandingof the metaphor. common in EarlyChristian art. 1031.13. 1561-62.Plato in the ItalianRenaissance. 230-239. 518a-518d.Harmondsworth. Cratylus (ibidem. esp.as in n. Juan Valdes and the Origins of the Spanish and Italian Reformation.1. J. 118. pp. bonum ipsum per solis Forthis see also M.pp. 40 De Amore. II. ed. there has been a significantincrease in the amount of scholarshipon Ficino.Shorey. Ficino'sreference is to Plato. 8. Allen. pp. 109. chapter 6). 303. Oxford. eds. II. 1978-1982. ibidem. 1231-32. 1933.ed. W.
p.3. Iconographie. figs. 22 (cited by A. The Sistine Chapel. 1561-1562 in conjunction with Republic 6. Work 74 It is interesting to consider other representations of Caves in Christian iconography which might have been related to similar themes. pp. 1978. 2. See also E. p. 5. Ibidem. 201. 344f. 303). Ramsden also refers to the period as "relativelypeaceful"and to "the of the marriagetreaty with France(E."in TheLanguage of Art. and questions Michelangelo's neoplatonism (Hall."the rearview of a clearly human. 1485. II. 257-259. 70 Vasarialludes to the work as having been commissioned by Clement VIIand to "inventionswhich had been decided" (G. "FirstReactions to the Ceiling. H. A Psychoanalytic Study of his Life and Images. p. The Interpretationof the Fourth Gospel. p. New Cambridge Modern History." p. Dodd. 69-86."The Evidence for the Scaffolding of the Sistine Ceilcomments on the coming.New Jersey.). part 2. II. See also R. pp. 1408-1412 (on Republic 7).School of Economic Science. p. Renaissance Philosophy. 1975-88.1971. 55-59 (letter no. 3.Disputationes. 340 and 355-356. 67 Ibidem. pp. pp. Coughland. vol. 61 Certainfeatures of Plato's cave are admittedly not present in or moving systems beMichelangelo's Cave.Michelangelo. 196-199. 1963.Oxford. and book 16 (ed. 59 Pico della Mirandola. Condivi. more popularly. Marsile Ficin et I'Art. There are no "artefacts" tween the figure and the fire which it seems to face and there are also a number of figures which are clearly "devils. 1553. 1592 "ex speculo concavo ad solem"). 1972 (1953). 75 and 83). 2. completed in 1994."Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. New Haven. pp. p.Michelangelo. Letter to Ermolao Barbaro. 78-79 where he refers to Plato's Republic. Cambridge. Hartt binationof Christian and neoplatonicthemes on the Sistine ceiling. 425.Letters (trans. pp. p. 440 (which contrasts with the way in which it has so often been termed "a period of catastrophe").Chiin Salmi. Worldof Michelangelo. H. 76 R.Geneva. by mid 1533 (quoted ibidem.4 vols. de Maio. II. passim. "Michelangelo'sLast Judgment. 384-398. Waddington. 286). 1980.who appears to view Christianreadings as alternatives to the platonic. 26). p.. and p. pp. Chronicle. by L. The Lettriumph" ters of Michelangelo. Work others). figures of human souls as well as demons are clearly discernible.Orationon the Dignity of Man. Vasari. Michelangelo's meeting with Pope Clement VIIat S. esp. and ed. vol. Last Judgment. Even though it is not literally"fettered.). respectively pp. Michelangelo. 53 For Ficino's Commentary on Plato's Republic. 181. 72 Forother similarcontemporary "visualreadings.. nakedfigure is depicted and other human figures are seen escaping outwards and upwards into the brightness of the Sun above."in Chastel et al. connected with Plato's Sun-Cave metaphor is his so-called "DividedLine" symbol (Republic7. Italso appears significantthat. 31. G. Redig de Campos. Lives of the Artists. 83-84). vol. 1231). 60 Although previously blackened by smoke from the altar candles. 62 A. Cambridge. 38. The Reformation. p. 2. vol. 1975. and see also pp. figs. n. 1. LastJudgment. 532a-533a.Hartt. 166) and no doubt furtherreferences will come to light in due course. W. 268).and the Cave of the Entombment. pp. His Life. The Sistine Chapel.Lifeof Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel. 1983. L.trans."ArtHistory." in Chastel et al. Chastel. 73 Cited by Murray. Murray. Michelangelo. 1984. Historyof Italy.Michelangelo.also New Cambridge Modern History.. in Fallico (ed. Steinberg. London).1976. perhaps. Complete cago. "Michelangelo'sLast Judgment. p."Thinker. Goldscheider. Whether any correspondence may be traced between the Divided Lineand the arrangement of Michelangelo's fresco must be a matterfor furtherinvestigation. p. already cited above. where he gives a full translationof Plato's text (ed. p. and Laws (p. 127). books 2 and 10) seem to receive the most attention.Michelangelo. 1207. pp.Wohl. esp. Translatedfrom the OriginalTuscan. n. p. Ramsden. Harmondsworth. vol. see C. p. Elton (ed. Forsuccinct comment on the "Turkish problem"see New CambridgeHistory. pp. see Opera Omnia. T. ed. 71 De Vecchi in Chastel et al. see G. appendix. 176 and n. 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. 64 F Guicciardini. This condition was improved with the cleaning of the fresco. 1526). 176 and also. particularly pp. chapters 1 and 7. 285. 75 Tolnay. London. for example book 6. and R. esp. Christemerges from the Cave for the Salvation of mankindfrom ignorance and darkness. 378). R. 88). pp. ed.1984. Historyof Italy. 509d-511d).J. See also the motu proprio of Paul Ill. p. pp. 66 Guicciardini. 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. 398.. 97). pp. de Vecchi in Chastel et al. 434-437. 1568.1. 1958. 1520-59. p. cit.) Renaissance Philosophy. 1. p. Garin. 69 Guicciardini. 532c. London. 58 Pico dell Mirandola. p. pp.HELL IN MICHELANGELO'S LASTJUDGMENT jor tenets of platonic philosophy. and Times.Inboth cases. For platonism in the gospel of St John. For the Sack of Rome itself. 5 on p. reproduced in Fallico (ed. Bull. "The Line of Fate in Michelangelo's Paintings. pp. esp. esp. Sculpture. vol. 54 Otherprecise references to Plato's Cave and Republic7 occur in Ficino'scommentaries onPhilebus (OperaOmnia. 77 F. 58-59. Chastel. 417f. ed. citing Chastel. pp. Mitchell. 3rd June.. 68 Ibidem.. 3 (1973). 208. 422-423 and 430. cit. 273-286. who recommends "caution"in platonic readings of Michelangelo's work (p. 440. 164. 113. 1. R6au. dated 17th November 1536 (reproducedin Redig de Campos. 3 on p.Rome. 5. See also Ficino's commentary on Plotinus's Enneads (Opera Omnia. pp. 157. Alexander. London.and ed. 107 65 . 1975. Life. p. Michelangelo e la Controriforma. H. 63 De Vecchi. by Members of the LanguageDepartment. London. 52 Republic 7. pp. 51 Republic 7. such as the Cave of the Nativity(more commonly depicted as cave than stable in the Eastern Greek Orthodox Church). 25. L.5. 1230. Timaeus (p. p. The Sistine Chapel. 345. 1473). 753-754. 55 Theologia Platonica."TheSun at center: Structureand meaning in Pico della Mirandola's Heptaplus. General references to Republic in Ficino's works are fartoo numerous to mention. vol. 152-153. TheHistoryof Italy(firstpublished 1561). 19 and 99. Forthe Treaties of Barcelona and Cambrai. p. B. S. Michelangelo. 520) and Hall. p. 517-530. among Michelangelo. II. Liebert. The theme was also referred to by the neoplatonist Cristoforo Landino. 408-412. Chastel. Condivimentions "whathe had already begun in Clement's time" (A. pp."see Tolnay. 56 See MarsilioFicino. 5. esp. 312 and 294. 57 Ibidem. 1406-1408 (on Republic 6) and pp. 8-35. (or. p."Butthe Cave itself and the fire within are very prominent. 401-405. Painting. 514-516. Architecture. vol. Michelangelo. in conjunction with Republic 6. but books 6 and 7 (alongside." Worksof Michelangelo. and Times. 1396-1438. 72.