In 1568, more than 130 years after it had been built, Cosimo I de' Medici (b. 1519/ r. 1537-74), Duke of Florence, decided to address the decoration of the cupola of the Duomo. While it had always been the intention to decorate the cupola with mosaics, an immense undertaking given its size, Cosimo opted in the end for frescoes. And he called in his trusted court painter Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) to undertake the work. The subject was to be the Last Judgement.
Vasari, with the assistance of four fellow painters, started work on June 11th, 1572. However, on June 27th, 1574 he died, having completed only about a third of the work. His patron had died two months earlier on April 21st.
In 1576 the baton passed to Federico Zuccari (1542-1609), an artist who hailed from Sant' Angelo in Vado, a small town in the Marches. Zuccari began work on August 30th with the help of at least three other painters, only one of which had worked with Vasari. Zuccari and his team completed the frescoes, less than two years later, in May 1578.
Zuccari signed and dated his work (on his chest), but no mention was made of his illustrious predecessor. The omission of Vasari's name was no doubt an oversight on the part of the younger artist. However, he did include Vasari's portrait (and a number of other portraits), albeit placed behind his own, rather more imposing, self-portrait (complete with flamboyant head-wear).
The frescoes, which cover 3,600 square metres and depict more than 700 figures, were finally unveiled to the public on August 19th, 1579.