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Artwork Review: The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
Posted by Graphica on 7/10/2009 10:49:09 AM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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With these figures of the Lord and Adam, Michelangelo represents the words from Genesis (1:27): "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him..." The Lord’s gesture is superb, as his mighty arm becomes the channel for the life force. Adam’s arm, resting passively on his knee, suggests the newness and helplessness of his body before it is infused with life.

The Creation of Adam - Michelangelo

THE CREATION OF ADAM (1510-11) -- Detail View

Though both the Lord’s arm and that of Adam appear similarly muscular and sculpturally painted, Adam’s forearm seems soft and flaccid next to the vivid structural strength of the arm and hand of God. Even the colors seem to emphasize this contrast: the tan hue of Adam’s flesh seems heavily opaque, while the Creator’s arm is rosy and vigorous. These two figures are the best known of all the Sistine paintings, and justly so, embodying as they have for generations both the majesty and compassion of God in the act of creation.

In May of 1508, Michelangelo accepted a commission from Pope Julius II to paint the Vatican's Sistine Chapel ceiling. Initially, Michelangelo was reluctant to accept the commission, regarding himself a sculptor, but his initial trepidations faded and he began the project in early 1509. Using the centuries-old technique of fresco, Michelangelo worked at a feverish pace under exceptionally adverse conditions. The ceiling decoration devised by Michelangelo consisted of a series of illusionistic architectural elements that frame figures and narrative scenes derived from the Old Testament. Completed four years later in 1512, the ceiling marked the summit of the artist's career as a painter and sealed his reputation as the greatest painter of the High Renaissance.

The controversial restoration of the ceiling, begun in 1980, has dramatically transformed its appearance, revealing a dazzling array of color, renewing interest in Michelangelo as a colorist. Although the artist devoted the last thirty years of his life almost exclusively to architecture, his powerful paintings remained enormously influential, and continue to stand among the supreme masterpieces of art history.

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