Title

Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: A Winged Boat and an Ill Omen

Description/Abstract/Artist Statement

Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel between 1536 and 1541 when the artist was in his early sixties. It has been agreed upon by most scholars that Michelangelo was highly influenced by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy. Prominently displayed in the lower right section of the fresco are the figures of Charon and Minos. In Greek mythology, and featured in Dante’s Inferno, Charon was the ferryman who ferries the souls of the damned across the river Styx to hell, where the infernal judge Minos awaits their arrival. However, there is a detail in this section of the painting that although briefly acknowledged by some scholars, has been largely overlooked. Here, Michelangelo added a wing to Charon’s boat; a small detail for which there was no precedence. A key to understanding this mysterious iconographic addition can be found in the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the fifth book, Ovid tells the story of Ascalaphus, the gardener and caretaker of Hades’ orchards in the underworld, whose transformation into an owl is described by the poet as a bearer of ill omens. By examining the political and social culture of Rome in the years leading up to the creation of the Last Judgment as well as the inner turmoil experienced by Michelangelo as he neared the end of his career and life, it will become evident that Michelangelo included symbolic references to Ascalaphus as a reference to the climate of the time.

Presenting Author Name/s

Kayla Bruce

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Anne Muraoka

College Affiliation

College of Arts & Letters

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Disciplines

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art and Architecture

Session Title

Art History 3: Matters of Interpretation

Location

Zoom Room R

Start Date

3-20-2021 12:00 PM

End Date

3-20-2021 12:55 PM

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Mar 20th, 12:00 PM Mar 20th, 12:55 PM

Michelangelo’s Last Judgment: A Winged Boat and an Ill Omen

Zoom Room R

Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel between 1536 and 1541 when the artist was in his early sixties. It has been agreed upon by most scholars that Michelangelo was highly influenced by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy. Prominently displayed in the lower right section of the fresco are the figures of Charon and Minos. In Greek mythology, and featured in Dante’s Inferno, Charon was the ferryman who ferries the souls of the damned across the river Styx to hell, where the infernal judge Minos awaits their arrival. However, there is a detail in this section of the painting that although briefly acknowledged by some scholars, has been largely overlooked. Here, Michelangelo added a wing to Charon’s boat; a small detail for which there was no precedence. A key to understanding this mysterious iconographic addition can be found in the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In the fifth book, Ovid tells the story of Ascalaphus, the gardener and caretaker of Hades’ orchards in the underworld, whose transformation into an owl is described by the poet as a bearer of ill omens. By examining the political and social culture of Rome in the years leading up to the creation of the Last Judgment as well as the inner turmoil experienced by Michelangelo as he neared the end of his career and life, it will become evident that Michelangelo included symbolic references to Ascalaphus as a reference to the climate of the time.