Chapter 4

Question three. What was it Michelangelo did not consider as a trifle?

In the fresco “The Last Judgment”, Michelangelo presents a great number of nude bodies.


Michelangelo. The central part of the fresco
“The Last Judgment” (1536–1541)
on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel

In 1555 Paul IV became the pontiff and demanded “to cover the private parts” of the figures. It was done by the artist Daniele da Volterra, and he entered the historical record as “braghettone” – “panties painter”. Amazingly, Buonarroti was silent about that. Romain Rolland depicted an unusual reaction of typically hot-tempered, spitfire Michelangelo to a deadly threat to his fresco “The Last Judgment” with the following words: “He kept silence when his work was called “a Lutheran infamy”. He kept silence when Paul IV intended to remove the fresco. He kept silence when Daniele da Volterra “dressed” the main figures of “The Last Judgment”.

When asked what he thought about that, he said with no anger, though with some sneer and bitterness:
“Tell the Pope it’s a trifle (italics added) that can be easily corrected. Let His Holiness see to bringing the world in order, as for making my picture look decent, it’s not a problem”.
One is under the impression that the artist knew something the others did not even surmise. Something that enabled him to be quiet while looking at what was going on.

But what was it?

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