Artibus et Historiae no. 34 (XVII)1996, ISSN 0391-9064
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CHRISTIANE L. JOOST-GAUGIER - Michelangelo's Ignudi, and the Sistine Chapel as a Symbol of Law and Justice
The object of this study is to show that a specific part of Michelangelo's painted ceiling, not usually considered intrinsic to thematic discussion, offers not only an important clue regarding the underlying theme of the Ceiling itself but, moreover, suggest that Ceiling is inherently related to the previous and subsequent decorations and indeed even to the purpose of the building itself as an architectural monument. Deriving from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the centralizing symmetry and grandly articulated ignudi of the Sistine Chapel represent the Golden Age of Man. In this way the Hebrew and Christian Bible (the Old Testament) and the "Pagan" Bible (the Ovidian legacy) - familiar sources that did not require theological expertise - were effectively combined and harmonized as the patrimony of Christian Rome. The essence of this conflation suggest that the theme of Law and Justice prevail in the Ceiling, as well as in the original altar wall and the side wall decorations, including Raphael's tapestries, the building itself and its original internal organization and, finally, in Michelangelo's Last Judgement. The so-called Sacrifice of Noah is re-named as the Sacrifice of Abel, which corresponds with the descriptions of this scene by Michelangelo's friends Condivi and Vasari as well as with the correct chronological order of the Ceiling paintings and the theme of Law and Justice.