These copies after Michelangelo's Last Judgement do not date from West's first visit to Italy in 1760, as might be expected: the bold and confident style suggests that in fact the present drawings date from later in his life. He may well have been working from prints of the fresco. As a young man seeing the Old Masters in Rome for the first time, West, like his contemporaries, would have responded more readily to the grace and elegance of Raphael, rather than Michelangelo's visionary monumentality. Yet, in his maturity, he came to appreciate aspects of Michelangelo's art.
His views on the Last Judgement are fortuitously recorded in Joseph Farington's diary for 16 February 1804: 'He [West] sd. of the Last Judgement of Michael Angelo that the Groupes of figures were immensely fine, but the Composition of the whole together Gothic and indifferent' (ed. K. Garlick and A. Macintyre, The Diary of Joseph Farington, New Haven and London, 1979, VI, p. 2246). In these studies, West therefore isolated what he believed to be the most admirable elements of the whole.