Art History’s Funniest Moments: Michelangelo’s Revenge

Ah, Michelangelo.  Even today, his paintings and sculptures of draw feelings of awe.

Michelangelo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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However, this entry commemorates Michelangelo’s delightfully dark wit and how you should not make him angry.  The reason comes from the story of The Last Judgement (seen above).  Buonarroti painted the work in 1542 in the Sistine Chapel along with his other murals.   While Buonarroti received praise for his work (1), this painting made a few people angry.  As recounted in the book, Michelangelo, life, letters, and poetry, writer Pietro Aretino claimed that the painting “would be better in a brothel.” (2)

However, it was another person who went by the name of Biagio de Cesena whom history now remembers as a lesson to not cross a talented artist.  The book, The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti, by John Addington Symonds claims that de Cesena also complained to the Pope about the excessive nudity.  And like Aretino, de Cesena said “that it was more fit for a place of debauchery than for a Pope’s Chapel.” (3)  When Michelangelo hears this, he renders de Cesena in the bottom right as a man with snakes strangling him. (4)

ETA: Since Google Books decided to change the link on me, I added a new link for you to read about this delightfully funny episode in art history.


1. Web Gallery of Art

2. George Bull, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Ascanio Condivi, “Michelangelo, life, letters, poetry,” (Google Books Edition) ( Oxford University Press: 1999) 176.

3. John Addington Symonds, “The Life of Michelangelo Buonarroti,” (Google Books Edition) (Bibliolife:1911) 331.

4. Ibid.


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