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While the Last Judgment was a traditional subject for large church frescoes, it was unusual to place a fresco at the east end, over the altar 😉 The traditional positioning was on the west wall, over the main doors, at the back of the church, so that each member of the congregation was reminded of its possible fate on their way out of church 👍 The fresco could be painted in the exterior or on the interior 🙈 A number of medieval panel paintings were inspired by the subject, mostly altarpieces 😎 However, they’re have having different compositions and were modified to fit a horizontal space. Rogier van den Weyden’s Beaune Altarpiece, as well as works from artists like Hans Memling and Fra Angelico are just a few examples. Many aspects of Michelangelo’s composition reflect the well-established traditional Western depiction, but with a fresh and original approach. 
Not long after the painting’s completion, the Council of Trent condemned nudity in religious art, decreeing that “all lasciviousness be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or adorned with a beauty exciting to lust.” Clement’s successor Pope Pius IV complied with the tenet, and in 1565, the year after Michelangelo’s death, had the more controversial nudity painted over by Daniele da Volterra, earning the artist the nickname Il Braghetonne, “the breeches-maker.” Da Volterra also substantially repainted the figures of Saint Catherine and Saint Blaise, whose positions were considered unseemly. In the 17th, and 18th centuries, additional coverings were applied. 
The art historian Leo Steinberg (1920–2011) is renowned for his penetrating and controversial studies of renaissance art. He especially cherished Michelangelo, writing two books on the master’s sculptures and paintings. “Michelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer,” on view through February 12, 2018, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, features around 150 drawings and highlights the artist’s blend of devotedly Christian and heretically individual inspiration. To mark the occasion, we are publishing an abridged version of Steinberg’s roving analysis of the Last Judgement, which also attests to the independence of Michelangelo’s religious thinking, specifically his disbelief in a material hell. Original publication of this article was in A.I.A. November/December 1975. —Eds. Edited by Diana Ramos, Dushanbe (Tajikistan), December 23, 2021 
It is here. It is this moment that all Christians look forward to with both fear and hope. It is the moment all Christians await with both hope and dread. This will be the end of the world, the beginning for eternity. The elect join Christ in heaven, while the condemned are cast into eternal torment. What a daunting task: to visualize the endgame of earthly existence—and furthermore, to do so in the Sistine Chapel, the private chapel of the papal court, where the leaders of the Church gathered to celebrate feast day liturgies, where the pope’s body was laid in state before his funeral, and where—to this day—the College of Cardinals meets to elect the next pope. We are grateful to Jediah from Denpasar in Indonesia for the latest modifications.