Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Michelangelo's Last Judgment


St. Bartholomew Within the Last Judgment
Michelangelo's St. Bartholomew is seen to the right of located in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
Michelangelo's St. Bartholomew is seen to the right of located in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.

This detail is of St. Bartholomew from the Last Judgment (1536-41). It was in the figure of St. Bartholomew, the martyr who was flayed alive, that Michelangelo chose to create a tragic and anguished self-portrait. He depicted his own face in the empty envelope of skin that hangs grotesquely from the saint's hand, a metaphor for the artist's tortured soul.

St. Bartholomew's genitalia are now covered by a loincloth, as were many other parts of the fresco, in response to the conservative cultural climate of the Counter-Reformation. It was in January 1564, only one month before the Michelangelo's death, that the Assembly of the Council of Trent took action to amend the fresco. It was Michelangelo's own pupil Daniele da Volterra who was commissioned to paint folds of drapery throughout the fresco to cover the figures' nudity.

The next detail from the Last Judgment is from the lower part of the fresco, from hell. Go to the next page to see Minos.

To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: