As illustrated here, in this detail from Michelangelo's Last Judgment (1536-41), it is only by their extraordinary facial features, glowing with celestial beauty, that angels are distinguished from mere mortals throughout the fresco.
In the swirling mass of doom that is Last Judgment, Michelangelo chose to focus on a small number of people caught in an unresolved struggle between eternal suffering and eternal life.
These scenes were no doubt conceived as metaphors for the larger struggle between divine grace and evil for human souls, as well as vivid reminders to individual worshipers of their possible fate.
According to the book of Revelation, seven angels will blow their trumpets before God to announce the end of all creation. While Michelangelo chose a literal translation of this prophecy, he again depended upon the human form to convey his message. In accordance with the difficulty of attaining salvation, the Book of the Select at left is small in comparison to the larger Book of the Damned shown at right. Damage to this section of the fresco was caused by the canopy of the papal throne that was located directly below and used for special occasions.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lauren Mitchell Ruehring is a freelance writer who has contributed promotional commentary for the works of many artists, including Erté and Thomas McKnight. She has also contributed to publications such as Kerry Hallam: Artistic Visions and Liudmila Kondakova: World of Enchantment. In addition, she has received recognition from the National Society of Arts and Letters.