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Gli “Ignudi“ in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel

Gli #ignudi are decorative nude figures painted by #michelangelo as part of the decorative scheme of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. They are placed above each of the thrones of the sibyls and prophets (except Zechariah and Jonah) in groups of two, sitting on plinths and bearing garlands of oak leaves and acorns, and of medallions painted to resemble bronze, with episodes drawn from the books of Genesis, Samuel, Kings, and Maccabees.

Although it is within the painted architectural structure, their prominent position - contiguous to the nine prophetic visions - means that they cannot be considered as ornamental elements, and suggests that their function is more than the merely heraldic one attributed to them by Vasari. They seem rather to have been conceived as angelic figures in the special acceptation of "intermediary spirits between men and the Godhead" suggested by Charles de Tolnay.

Michelangelo showed these nudes in many poses and expressions, as if reacting to the adjacent scenes. Although many of the poses are drawn from pagan sources, there was also an established tradition supporting nudity in Christian art. All souls were believed to be naked before God and are indeed depicted as such in Michelangelo's Last Judgment.


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