Early to High Renaissance Art


The Creation of Adam

Michelangelo, Italian

Italy, Vatican City

Fresco painting on a lime plaster canvas. 15’ 9’’ x 7’ 7’’ or 189’’ x 91’’

In 1508, Pope Julius II (1444-1513) commissioned Michelangelo to paint a series of frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, this project spawned many great works that became iconic to the Italian culture, one of which being the Creation of Adam.

The Creation of Adam is a section of the magnificent Sistine Chapel mural, painted by Michelangelo. It depicts God supported by wingless angels, who are flying nevertheless. God has descended from the heavens in a drapery, and his index finger is outstretched to the point where it almost touches the index finger of Adam. Adam is a naked form, a man with brown hair, and is in the position of lying down. God is flying in the direction of Adam, as shown by the flow of the drapery and God’s gray hair and beard. Although Adam seems in a very relaxed position, he mirrors the form of God in terms of body language, bringing in the idea that God created humankind in the image of himself. The touch Adam will receive from God is not only giving life to Adam, but also giving life to humankind itself. Adam appears to be sitting on an earthen structure, making it known that Adam was given life on earth. God is the only one in the painting that is clothed, showing that he is the one true God, the creator of life and the universe. The environment around God and Adam is rather dull, with the angels supporting God blending with each other, and none of them having unique characteristics. The earthen piece in which Adam lies lacks in detail and impressive color, therefore Michelangelo painted this with the sole purpose of the viewers focusing on God and Adam.