Artibus et Historiae no. 30 (XV)

1994, ISSN 0391-9064

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VALERIE SHRIMPLIN - Hell in Michelangelo's Last Judgement

This examination of the unusual role of Hell in Michelangelo's Last Judgment centres on the curious fact that the "Cave of Hell" is placed directly above the altar in the Sistine Chapel while at the same time figures of the damned are also being propelled towards "Hell" proper, which is apparently located offstage to the right.

A possible explanation is related to the depiction in the fresco of Christ as a beardless "Apollonian" type of sun symbol or deity. In Christian Neoplatonism Christ is commonly analogized to the Sun. The discussion of this concept in the writings of the Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino is traced back to the ultimate source of Plato himself (Republic 6), where the sun deity analogy is significantly combined with Plato's most famous metaphor of the Cave (Republic 7). The conclusion reached in the article is that the "Cave" in the Last Judgment is related, as part of the overall scheme of the fresco, to Plato's Cave, which it in fact represents.

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