A few nice bible prophecy cartoons images I found:
Stato della Città del Vaticano
Image by Herb@Victoria
Vatican Museums – Sistene Chapel – This is Michelangelo’s masterpiece and one of the most important painting cycles in the world, covering 800 sq metres of wall with “good fresco” painting. It was begun in May 1508, and then stopped for about a year between September 1510 and August 1511. The chapel was solemnly inaugurated by Julius II on November 1st, 1512. The vault’s iconography is linked to the themes chosen for the side walls, representing humanity’s long wait for Christ, the prophecies foreseeing his coming and scenes from the Genesis. All the figures are set in a massive, architectural painted background, which is superimposed to the real vault. Interpretation of the paintings can be divided into three parts: The first part: Christ’s Ancestors according to Matthew’s gospel (1:1-17) are in the triangular webs and lunettes above the Windows. Men and women, representing humanity in general and generations succeeding one another, are crowded into a narrow, shallow space, awaiting the great event of revelation in different poses and attitudes: they look tired, exhausted, in fact, prostrated and often in great pain caused by their inactivity, exasperated by the interminably slow passage of time before the birth of Christ. The painter’s extraordinary technical ability is particularly noticeable in some of the figures, such as Mathan (above the original entrance)
or Josaphat (in the central part of the vault, near the episodes from the life of Christ), rapidly frescoed with quick brush strokes and very fluid colours. The four pendentives are painted with scenes alluding to the Salvation of Israel’s people. Beginning from the part over the ancient entrance are the following:
- on the right, “Judith and Holofernes”. The Babylonian king Nabucodonosor had ordered his Assyrian general Holofernes to attack the Israeli army; Judith, a young Jewish girl, got Holofernes drunk and then killed him. The scene shows Judith giving his head to her maid (Judith 13:8-10).
- on the left, the episode with “David and Goliath”. During the war between the Jews and the Philistines, young David fought Goliath, a giant who had sworn that he would reduce the Jews to slavery if he defeated their army (1, Samuel 17: 41-51). The pendentives towards the Last Judgement wall represent:
- on the right, the “Brazen Serpent”, alluding to the Biblical episode in which the Lord sent the reptiles against the Israelites. During their journey to the Promised Land, they became discouraged with the hardships endured, incurring the wrath of both God and Moses (Numbers 21:8). They repented for their behaviour, however, and were pardoned. God then told Moses to make a serpent in bronze: looking at this bronze serpent could save anyone bitten by one of the reptiles;
- on the left, the “Punishment of Haman”, an episode from the Book of Esther. A young vizier named Haman issued an edict against the Jews, ordering that anyone refusing to bow down to the king would be killed. Esther, the wife of a Persian king, managed to have the edict annulled, thereby saving the people of israel and causing the death of the vizier Haman. Above these pendentives are symmetrical bronze nudes and “bucrani” (ox skulls), classical decorative motifs alluding to sacrificial rituals.
The second part: splendid figures of the seven Prophets of the Bible and of the five pagan Sibyls, seated on massive thrones, outlined by naked, monochrome naked puttos resting on plinths. The Prophets and Sibyls both predicted the coming of Christ. Each figure is accompanied by angels or puttos who underline the personage’s specific role. They are all caught in the act of reading a book or unrolling a parchment scroll, absorbed in an extraordinary physical and spiritual effort. The most beautiful figures are probably the Delphic Sibyl and the prophets Ezekiel and Jonah. Jonah is shown next to the whale inside which he remained for three days – the same amount of time that Christ stayed in the sepulchre before his Resurrection.
The third part: the rectangles in the middle have nine scenes from the Genesis, four of them large ones and five small ones. Three of these episodes describe the Creation, three the story of Adam, and three deal with Noah. Michelangelo started painting the vault with the Noah episodes, probably intending to paint the scenes with the Creator at a later moment.
The three scenes of the Creation start with the “Separation of Light from Darkness”(Genesis 1:3-4), showing God wrapped in pink drapery and occupying most of the scene, which has an extremely complex perspective. Recent studies done after the fresco was cleaned have proved that Michelangelo painted it in just one day. Next is the extraordinary “Creation of Celestial Bodies and Plants”, divided into two asymmetric parts, each one containing the figure of the Lord. On the right He faces outwards, creating the shining sun and the pale moon with one sweeping gesture, while on the left the Lord has his back to the viewer as He creates plant life (Genesis 1:12-16). The third panel, with the “Separation of Land from Sea” (Genesis 1: 7-9), shows a completely new perspective and is equally beautiful.
Next to it is the celebrated “Creation of Adam”, where the focal point, the two loosened hands of the protagonists, is slightly offcentre. Adam’s body is magnificent. God is wrapped in pink drapery, and wingless angels with an expression of amazement on their faces, support His impetus. It is interesting to note that the two figures of God and Adam were actually painted using a single preliminary cartoon, as if Michelangelo were confirming what is written in the Bible: “God created man in the image of himself” (Genesis 1:27).
The “Creation of Eve” is next. It should be noted that in Michelangelo’s fresco Eve is born from living rock and not, as the Bible says, from Adam’s rib. The sixth panel is occupied by the “Original Sin” (left) and the “Expulsion from Paradise” (right). The two scenes are divided by the tree of good and evil, with the serpent coiled around its trunk and the Archangel Gabriel above it. The tree is slightly off-centre, marking the transition from lush countryside to an arid landscape, expressing how the human condition has changed. Even our ancestors’ bodies change after the Sin, seeming to age, which proves that physical appearance for Michelangelo also represents inner spirituality. The seventh episode, “Sacrifice of Noah”, shows the Patriarch thanking the Lord after the flood. The offering of a ram’s entrails can be seen in the foreground: “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it” (Genesis 8:20). The “Flood” in the eighth panel is largely taken from the seventh and eighth chapters of the Genesis. A tent, where the terrified future victims of the flood are taking shelter, is on the right. In the centre, Noah carries the few survivors to safety on a boat, taking them towards the arc in the upper left of the painting, which symbolises the Church. The scene of Salvation is painted diagonally in the foreground: after the inundation, the waters have retreated and the survivors can settle down on dry land, along with the few possessions they have saved. Sixty people crowd into this scene, standing out against a light background in a deep landscape. This was probably the first episode painted by Michelangelo: afterwards he preferred larger images, daringly foreshortened and the composition became complex. Unfortunately, part of the sky collapsed in 1797 when Castel Sant’Angelo’s gunpowder depot exploded; 16th century prints show that a thunderbolt was painted in the collapsed area.
In the ninth panel over the original entrance to the Chapel is the “Drunkenness of Noah” (Genesis 9:20-23), showing life and agricultural activities resuming on earth. “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told that to his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father’s nakedness”.
The Genesis scenes are surrounded by “Ignudi”, extraordinary naked male figures; their powerful bodies probably represent male beauty, created in God’s image. They sit on marble blocks in “spiralling” poses, holding festoons or ribbons with large bronze medallions painted with scenes from the Old Testament. Their role in the composition is an important one, because they break up the structure’s regularity, visually connecting the Genesis panels. It has been observed that “their presence on each of the four relieves very naturally frames the smaller scenes, and their function in the sequence of the nine panels is therefore essential” (R. Pane, 1964). This function is particularly noticeable between the first and second scene, where part of the fresco over the arch collapsed in 1797.
Other important painting effects are the following: the way the painter enlarged the naked male figures and the figure of Christ towards the altar; his diversified use of colour, which is applied thickly in the Moses scenes and with rapid brush strokes in the last scenes.
Finally, the images in the foreground have clear, sharp outlines, while those in the background have softened outlines painted with fluid brush strokes, a technique which Michelangelo had probably learnt from his contemporary, Leonardo.
In 1532, twenty years after Michelangelo finished the ceiling, Clement VII (1523-1534) asked him to paint the far wall of the Sistine Chapel. Work began only under the next pope, Paul III Farnese (1534-1549), and the magnificent fresco was finally unveiled during an official ceremony on October 13th, 1541. The painting also symbolised the Papacy’s regained supremacy, after the tragic events of 1527, when the Lansquenets, German mercenary troops, sacked Rome, and the Lutheran crisis which had undermined the Roman Church’s authority. First of all, Michelangelo lined the wall to be painted with a layer of brick. To prevent dust from settling on it and improve the perspective, this new surface was angled slightly outwards at the top (26 cm). Some 15th century frescoes were thereby lost and so were the lunettes Michelangelo painted. Although Michelangelo was inspired by the Bible, particularly by the Revelation, and by Dante’s Divine Comedy, his own tragic philosophic vision prevails in this work. Christ, in the middle of the fresco with the Madonna beside him, decides the inevitable afterlife destiny of each human being with a simple gesture of his arms: some are saved (the figures on the left, rising to Heaven), but most are damned (the naked people on the right, plunging into Hell).
The figures move in a kind of vortex, against the background of a blue sky without any architectural structures. The dead, seen on the lower left, are woken from their long slumber by angels’ trumpets, and their skeletons gradually transform back to being bodies. These angels in the middle of the painting have no wings and hold up two books: the smaller book held by the Archangel Michael records the names of the blessed, while the larger book is a list of the damned. On Christ’s left are Saint Andrew, seen from the back with his cross and Saint John the Baptist with a powerful physique, who might represent Adam. Lower down are Saint Lawrence with a ladder, symbolising his martyrdom on a grate over hot coals and Saint Bartholomew, holding a fleshless human skin (some consider it a portrait of Michelangelo).
On the right are Saint Peter, actually a portrait of the commissioner, Pope Paul III, holding a silver and a gold key; below Peter is Saint Blaise, with the iron combs used to torture him and Saint Catherine of Alexandria with the toothed crescent-knife of her martyrdom. These two figures, particularly Saint Blaise, were heavily repainted in 1565 because they were thought indecent. Saint Sebastian kneels beside them, with arrows in his hand. Slightly below this, on the right, is the famous figure of a damned man who, frightened by the terrible sight, covers one eye. In another significant scene, the mythical boatman Charon, who ferried the damned in Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Divine Comedy, actually pushes sinners out
of his boat towards Hell, abandoning them to their dramatic fate. Biagio da Cesena, a well-known papal master of ceremonies at that time, is at the end of this group. He criticised Michelangelo’s work, saying that it was worthy of a bath or tavern, and Michelangelo took revenge by using Biagio to represent Minos, one of the Underworld judges in Greek-Roman mythology, wrapped in serpents’ coils that indicate to what circle of Hell the damned are destined. At the very top of the fresco the symbols of Christ’s passion can be seen: the cross, the crown of thorns, the dice used by the guards, the Flagellation column and the sponge with which he was wet. Here Michelangelo’s style is quite different from that in the ceiling, and expresses his changed attitude towards life: God is the severe judge whom none can question, not even the Virgin Mary, and certainly not man. This is why the bodies seem heavy with grief, as if they carried traces of their experiences on earth, which weighed them down. The colours stand out against an intense and dominating blue, generally changing from a whole gamut of reds to green, brown and black tones, which stress a tragic way of interpreting events. Only the background behind Christ and Mary, who has a light blue cape, is enlivened by an intense yellow that emphasizes the power of Christ’s raised arm. The Council of Trent, ended in 1563, decreed that art works in sacred places had to be modest and completely respect the Scriptures. Because of this, the “Last Judgement” frescoes were somewhat repainted in 1565 by one of Michelangelo’s pupils, Daniele da Volterra, who covered the figures’ nakedness with famous veils and loincloths, earning the nickname of “il Braghettone” (the maker of breeches). Other repainting was done for the same reason in the late 16th century and during the next two centuries.
Michelangelo’s painting technique and the Sistine Chapel restoration
When the painting was restored, scholars debated intensely whether or not to remove these “dry” additions to the fresco, and argued on the one hand that Michelangelo’s original work should be brought to light, and on the other that the additions were part of the frescos’ life-story. Finally, they decided to keep only Daniele da Volterra’s additions as the tangible expression of a historical era, and to remove all subsequent additions. This was because, as John Paul II said during the mass held when the Chapel was re-opened after restoration on April 8th 1994, “the Sistine Chapel is really the temple of the human body’s divinity” and, “it bears witness to mankind’s beauty as created by God, male and female”; in this beauty, Christ expressed “the whole mystery of the visibility of the invisible.”
The Sistine Chapel’s accurate restoration was done between 1980 and 1994 by a group of experts from the Vatican Museums, coordinated by Director Carlo Pietrangeli. Professor Fabrizio Mancinelli, art historian, supervised the work and Gianluigi Colalucci was chief-restorer. The Ceiling frescoes were cleaned between 1980 and 1992, while the “Last Judgement” took four years of intense work, ending in 1994. A new, completely forgotten Michelangelo emerged from the restoration. The candle smoke and even previous restorations (which consisted in painting over the frescos or retouching the colours to “brighten” them, which however deteriorated with the passing of time, thus making the frescoes even duller) had blackened the surface, so that in the past Michelangelo was commonly thought to be more interested in figures than in colour. After the cleaning, much art criticism on the artist had to be revised, or even completely re-written.
The “re-discovered” colours are actually light, vivid and bright, very skilfully blended to reduce the flattening effect inevitably produced on the figures by distance. The use of “bright colours” is particularly interesting. This means using a combination of strongly contrasting colours (such as in the Delphic Sibyl, the Prophet Daniel, or even more obviously in the pendentives and lunettes) to increase volume and emphasize the impact of the masses. Michelangelo used very thin, transparent colours on the Ceiling, sometimes applying them with quick, sure brush strokes that leave the background visible. The figures in the foreground generally have sharp outlines, while those in the background are shaded and more sketchily coloured in, achieving the effect of a lens focusing on the nearest objects. Michelangelo used only very high quality pigments for the colours and because of this the frescoes have lasted in time: ochre (earthy varieties of ore) provided the reds and yellows, iron silicates were used for the greens and lapis lazuli powder for the blues. The lilac is “morellone” (produced by a plant with purple flowers), and Michelangelo used what is commonly known as “Saint John’s white” and charcoal for black. This restoration attracted worldwide interest.
After some extremely careful lab tests, the first phase of restoration consisted in washing the frescoes with distilled water; then a mild solvent was applied to remove the layers of dirt, maintaining the frescoes’ thin protective coating made up of a layer dust which deposited itself on them right after they were painted.
The Sistine Chapel is now climate controlled with air-conditioners and a sophisticated monitoring system verifies and checks the environmental conditions in the Chapel.