Thursday, March 15, 2012

Michelangelo's Last Judgment and Marcello Venusti's copy

As if you didn't need another excuse to visit the just-about-to-end Renaissance in Rome exhibit at Palazzo Venezia, here is one more and then I promise never to write about this mostra ever again!

Marcello Venusti created a copy of Michelangelo's epic Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel before the latter was brutally censored under Pope Pius IV in 1565. It was Daniele da Volterra who was forced to do the dirty work, against his will. He was one of Michelangelo's most devout and adoring followers and he agreed to censor the work only because he was told it would otherwise be destroyed.

Copy of Michelangelo's Last Judgement, Marcello Vanusti, 1549, Museo di Capodimonte, Napoli

The censoring included mostly the addition of cleverly arranged scarves in just the right places to sheild our eyes from the scandalous male frontal nudity that was not tollerated (at least not right over the high altar of the pope's private chapel) during the morally strict counter-reformation. 

One of the most dramatic changes that was made to Michelangelo's original was the position of Saint Blaise in relation to St. Catherine. Here is the censored version in Michelangelo's original:

Detial from The Last Judgement, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1536-1541, Cappella Sistina, Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano

Notice that in Venusti's copy above (which we can assume was true to Michelangelo's original before it was censored), not only is a very burly St. Catherine completely nude, but St. Blaise is turned toward her menacingly in an not so decorous position. (These figures are on the right of the fresco, about halfway down.)

Venusti probably had no idea when he was painting his copy (the differs from the original at the top with the addition of God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of the dove) that it would become a useful historical record to document what Michelangelo's work looked like before the censoring.

The Last Judgement, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1536-1541, Cappella Sistina, Musei Vaticani, Città del Vaticano
Seeing Venusti's copy up close at the Renaissance in Rome exhibit was for me one of the most interesting parts of the exhibit, and yet another reason to visit it if you haven't already. Below are links to a few more posts I wrote about the exhibit, and you'll find information on visiting at my Exhibits on Now page.

Photo sources: 1: courtesy of Arthemisia Group Press Office; 2, 3
StumbleUpon Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...