The Creation of Adam
Dimensions: 2.8 m x 5.7 m
Location: Sistine Chapel
Periods: Renaissance, High Renaissance, Italian Renaissance
Media: Paint, Plaster
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City, created by the celebrated Italian artist Michelangelo, circa 1508-1512. The fresco painting ornately illustrates the creation of man by God, where God breathes life into Adam.
This painting is an artistic expression of the Book of Genesis, a Biblical Narrative, of God giving life to the first man, Adam. The fresco painting covers over almost five hundred square meters and has approximately three hundred figures in it.
It is said that Michelangelo halfheartedly took up the commission of this work since he considered himself more of a sculptor than a painter. This enormous piece of work took him almost four years to complete, he himself fashioned a specially designed scaffolding on which he could paint the ceiling both lying down and standing up. He was unable to see the entirety of his work while painting, since it was across such a broad stretch of the ceiling and the scaffolding had to stay in place before the completion of the painting. Only after its completion he himself could see what a striking and exemplary piece of art he had created.
There are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis at the center of creation, which are divided into three sets, namely, God’s Creation of Earth, God’s Creation of Humankind and lastly, their Fall from God’s Grace.
God is shown in the painting as an elderly white bearded man who is wrapped in a cloak, there are twelve figures surrounding him. Adam is on the lower left of the painting and is portrayed in the nude. God’s right arm is stretched out in front of him to impart the spark of life to Adam. Adam’s left arm is outstretched in a posture mirroring God’s to give us a reminder that humans were created in the resemblance of the almighty himself. The near touching hands of God and Adam have been iconic and have been replicated in many paintings thereafter.
Scholars, historians and art intellectuals have studied this piece of art over the many years and have presented with many interpretations. One of the most popular anatomical interpretation is that the cloud around God is shaped almost in the form of an uterus or a woman’s womb which signifies and symbolizes that God is birthing new life into Adam, and thus to the entire humankind and their outstretched arms are creating a depiction of umbilical cord.
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Deluge, the Prophet Jeremiah and the Cumaen Sibyl are the few of other fresco paintings which can be seen alongside The creation of Adam in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Words: Rhiti Chatterjee Bose
Image Courtesy: italianrenaissance.org
Disclaimer: Please note that the information used here has been researched from the internet and the writer is aware that there is more information which has been left out due to the restrictions regarding the length of the article.