Some of the more controversial nudity in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment was painted over the year after the artist’s death. Those additions were left intact when the Last Judgment was restored in the 1990s, but thanks to a farsighted cardinal we can see what the fresco looked like before it was censored.
The Last Judgment was commissioned for the Sistine Chapel by Pope Clement VII just a few days before his death. Michelangelo hadn’t even finished the fresco before controversy erupted over its unclothed figures.
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. Further coverings were added in the 17th and 18th centuries.