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A Report on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam

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The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting created by Michelangelo Buonarroti, or more commonly known as Michelangelo. The well-known painter of the renaissance era lived throughout Italy from 1475 to 1564. After being born in Caprese his family moved to Florence where Michelangelo’s art training began. During the year 1488, he became an apprentice to Domenico Ghirlandaio, a well-known painter at the time. Soon after he became developed in the trade, the artist was patronized by Lorenzo de’ Medici before becoming recognized and established as a sculptor. Between 1508 to 1512 the artist was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and from 1511 to 1512 the Creation of Adam was made.

Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is a fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy. After being commissioned by Pope Julius II, the artist was ordered to paint, rather than sculpt, through the service contract which existed between the two. As a result, he painted with a “sculptor’s eye”. During the process of the chapel, Michelangelo spent his time “perched on scaffolding with his brush in hand”. Although many believed that his art was created while laying down, he actually stood upright when making frescoes. “The artist and his assistants used wooden scaffolds that allowed them to stand upright and reach above their heads. Michelangelo himself designed the unique system of platforms, which were attached to the walls with brackets”. In regards to the process of creating what is now known as an “ambitious design”, Michelangelo sketched out drawings in red chalk to get the outlines of the painting precisely how he wanted on paper before transferring life-sized versions onto the ceiling. When it came time to create his paintings, a fresco technique was used, which is known to be difficult “as it involves applying water-based pigments to wet plaster and has to be done very quickly”. In the Mediterranean area using frescoes was a common use of style, originating back before the 17th century BCE for creating mural style paintings. Regardless of the challenges he faced, while using what was a new painting technique for himself, he still managed to “appear to have painted the vault almost single-handed”.

Michelangelo’s painting of the Creation of Adam is apart of the High Renaissance style which existed in 16th century Italy. This painting was exemplary of the time, as it had characteristics of the concept of Humanism which was increasing during the Renaissance era. Although his art is classified as apart of the renaissance style, Michelangelo created masterpieces that differentiated from common pieces of the era through “a style of vast, expressive strength conveyed through complex, eccentric and often titanic forms”. The artist’s frescoes displayed how the renaissance era was connected with both classical and Christian ideologies. During its creation, he took the project into his own hands by replacing straight architectural axes with curves and diagonals, differentiating himself from previous Italian painters.

The 16th-century focus on the Renaissance incorporated the concepts of individualism and anatomy, allowing for realistic art to flourish across Italy. It assisted with providing “a model for the living world, a model primarily of human-focused derived not from an authoritative and traditional religious dogma but from reason”. The evident incorporation of emotions through Michelangelo’s use of body language reflects the use of focusing on detail and movement, rather than stiff poses of previous art eras. Although realism and Protestantism were on the rise in Italy, the church managed to incorporate its beliefs through papal art commissions. Through infusing the concept of individualism in Christian art, the religious entities exploited their ideologies  while continuing to thrive as an influential organization.

The Creation of Adam was commissioned by the artist’s patron Pope Julius II as a way to enforce the Church’s Counter-Reformation. Michelangelo’s frescoes had an immense religious purpose, tackling the history of mankind through a Christian view. The painting was created in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City and remains in Rome, Italy. His art illustrated “the communication between gods and heroes in the classical myths” of the time. Today it is still possible to take part in the same viewing experience that Michelangelo originally designed for his patron. Looking upwards towards the sky, or what also could have been symbolic to the heavens, allowed for a sense of worship and a way to inspire loyalty.

The 15th-century Florentine artist’s work has transcended him by living through generations and making his name commonly known over the past 600 years. Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is now considered one of the most well-known art pieces of time. By focusing on displaying human expression in his masterpieces, and body figure placements rather than facial reactions, his background in sculpting played a vital role in creating a unique art style. The human experience within the Renaissance thrived when creation allowed for freedom of Humanist expression. “His work demonstrated a blend of psychological insight, physical realism and intensity never before seen”. The “painted statues” spread out on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and within the Creation of Adam reflect the era’s shift to the focus of the body rather than the spirit. The displays of naturalism and strong emotional ties in the Creation of Adam play a contributing role to Michelangelo’s long-lasting legacy in an era where names began to matter.

Works Cited

  • Cohen, Jennie. “7 Things You May Not Know About the Sistine Chapel.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 1 Nov. 2012, www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-sistine-chapel. 
  • “History – Michelangelo.” BBC, 2014, www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/michelangelo.shtml. 
  • Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Throughout the Ages: A Concise Global History. 4th ed., Cengage Learning, 2017. 
  • “Michelangelo.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 6 Sept. 2019, www.history.com/topics/renaissance/Michelangelo. Accessed 8 February 2020.
  • “Michelangelo.” The National Gallery, 2020, www.nationalgallery.org.uk/artists/michelangelo.
  •  “Studies for the Battle of Cascina and the Creation of Adam (Article).” Khan Academy, 2020, www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/high-ren-florence-rome/michelangelo/a/michelangelo-studies-for-the-battle-of-cascina-and-the-creation-of-adam.

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