Tortured Soul

Michelangelo creates a tragic and anguished self-portrait depicting his own face in the empty envelope of skin hanging grotesquely from the saint's hand, a metaphor for the artist's tortured soul.  He portrays various saints holding instruments of their martyrdom rather than the actual scenes of torture. To the right of Christ is St. Bartholomew, perched atop a cloud, holding his own skin because was flayed alive. He looks angry and with his right arm points a knife at Christ (which is really a sculptor's file --a hint he knows his carnal desires deserve punishment from Christ). The fact the skin is not displayed below in Hell suggests hope for his own salvation, in spite of his past life of the flesh.  ("To save one's skin"  - his "soul lies in the balance").  The skin is Michelangelo's way of leaving behind his own sacrifice on the wall of the papal chapel; he appears as merely flesh, but he is the middle of a painting he hopes will win him a place in heaven among the saints he painted.  His endeavors in the Sistine Chapel has used up his soul and reduced him to a pile of flesh, but he is still hoping that Bartholomew can intervene to save his soul.