Michelangelo Reading Landino? The "Devil" in Michelangelo's Last Judgment

Sarah Melanie Rolfe


In lieu of Satan, the Hell scene in Michelangelo's Last Judgment features Charon and Minos, two key figures present in Dante’s Inferno. These figures were given an interesting psychological interpretation in the well circulated fifteenth-century commentary on Dante's Commedia by Cristoforo Landino. This article compares Landino's allegoresis of the two figures and a selection of Michelangelo's poetry, as well as the artist's drawings for and relationship to the young nobleman Tommaso de' Cavalieri, to suggest the hypothesis that Michelangelo's Minos and Charon were intended to symbolize the psychological experience of damnation and, more specifically, the dynamic interplay of conscience, free will, choice and volition.

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