The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

High Renaissance in Italy

What is The Creation of Adam?

The Creation of Adam is the most famous of Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Adam is seen nude, reclining on a patch of bare terrain while God the Father approaches from the air, accompanied by angels and cherubs. God is shown with long, gray hair and a flowing beard, which are blown back by the wind. A red cape swirls around the figures and God’s hand reaches out toward Adam with one finger outstretched, delivering the spark of life. Adam seems to move slightly towards God, though his wrist is limp and his head lolls to one side—he is not yet fully alive. Their fingers appear mere centimeters apart, eliciting tension and drama. This is one of the most iconic images in all of art history. Michelangelo has captured the seconds immediately before God awakens Adam to life. The Creation of Adam is both delicate and powerful, poised and energized.


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