|The Last Judgment, 1536-41, Michelangelo|
One might think that painting a mere wall, even one seventy-some feet tall, would seem like child's play for a painter who had labored flat on his back for four long, excruciating, turbulent years painting a ceiling more than twice as large. Perhaps, but the wall was not without its difficulties. First of all, two windows had to be removed, the old frescoes torn down, and even two lunettes of his supposedly sacrosanct ceiling (containing the first seven generations of Christ's lineage) had to be destroyed by the artist's own hand no less. What a traumatic experience that must have been. Moreover, once he began, he encountered a visual problem unlike any he'd had to deal with in the ceiling work. The Last Judgment would be seen from the floor of course, but unlike the ceiling, which was a uniform distance from that floor, the wall ranged from a mere ten feet at the bottom to the full 70 feet at the top. It meant painting the lower figures (the damned) about half life size while those near the central figure of Christ were nearly twice life size. Of course, all these trials and tribulations would quickly be forgotten once the painting was finished and the praise and adulation he'd experience in the completion of the ceiling began rolling in. Wrong! Times had changed. The Counter-reformation had set in. About half the people who saw the scores of writhing, naked figures in the finished fresco hated it.