Who is ‘The Damned Man’?

This image shows detail from Michelangelo’s Last Judgement fresco painted between 1536 and 1541 on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

I have circled two areas of interest. The upper part depicts a muscular St Bartholomew, said to have been martyred by being skinned alive, hence the skinning knife seen in his right hand and the flayed carcass held in his left hand. However, the face depicted on the carcass has been identified as that Michelangelo. It even shows his broken nose.

The second area of interest shows a man in a sitting position being dragged down to Hell by creatures from the underworld. He is usually referred to as The Damned Man or The Damned Soul. He has never been clearly identified although one commentator, Daniel B. Gallagher, writing for the New York Arts journal, has suggested the figure is a “quasi self-portrait, a tortured Michelangelo [who] assumes the role of someone who has gained the world but forfeited himself.”

For sure, there is a relationship between the distorted portrait of Michelangelo featured on the flayed skin and The Damned Man figure, but my understanding is that the man depicted weighed down by evil spirits is not another portrayal of Michelangelo, but of his rival Leonardo da Vinci.

More on this in my next post.

Clothing the naked

In a post I made some four months ago – More Hidden Gems – I explained how the figure of Mars in Botticelli’s Primavera painting also represented St Martin of Tours who, as a Roman soldier, once sliced his cloak in half to cover a naked beggar he met at the gates of Amiens.

A similar motif is presented in Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. A female figure steps toward the shoreline offering a cloak to cover and support the naked Venus as she disembarks from her sea journey. The figure of Venus also represents Ecclesia, the Church, and in this instance the Church in need.

The motifs connect in more than one way, but in a biblical sense they refer to the Last Judgment passage in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus said “I was naked and you clothed me.”

St Martin Dividing his Cloak, Anthony van Dyck, c 1618

32 years ago…

This weather-worn adhesive sticker is adhered to one of the steps on ladders outside my home. It features the stick figure design by Lucio Boscardin for the Italia 90 World Cup mascot.

I was there for the event in 1990 ‘snapping’ images of the U.S. men’s national team and their games in Florence and Rome.

I still have all the images I took on file, if anyone out there is interested.

Armistice Day and St Martin’s Day

Amistice Day, also known as Veterans Day, is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the Allies of World War 1 and German at Compiègne, France, at 5:45am for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War 1, which took effect at eleven in the morning – the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. (Wikipedia)

The feast of St Martin of Tours is celebrated on this day also, and sometimes referred to as Martinmas or St Martin’s Day. The fourth century Roman soldier, who later became a bishop in Gaul, features in Botticelli’s famous Primavera painting. Details at this link.

Other viewpoints

A recent discovery that a painting by the Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) has been exhibited upside down for 75 years has caused quite a stir in the art world. The Art, Law and More blog has details about the finding and artwork titled New York City 1.

New York City 1 (unfinished) by Piet Mondrian

I wonder if the detection will change any understanding or perception of the painting (or even the artist) now that it can be viewed from a different perspective?

Sometimes paintings require a degree of rotation, or to be mirrored, in order to convey further information.

Jan Van Eyck was not adverse to using this technique. Neither were Sandro Botticelli and Hugo Van der Goes. Even Rembrandt.

Examples of this approach can be seen at these links.

More on Rembrandt’s ‘turnaround’ etching.
Man in a Red Turban
Leaning towards Pisa