Part of Michelangelo Buonarroti's masterpeice fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (completed 1512) in Vatican City, Italy, The Creation of Adam depicts God giving life to Adam. It is the fourth scene in the chronological order of the narrative, painted in the large field of the vault of the sixth bay, between triangular spandrels.


In the panel, a nude, muscular Adam reclines in the lower-left side, on a dark green curve of earth with a low blue mountains in the background. Adam is nearly lifeless, his sallow eyes peering towards God. Adam can barely keep his own arm lifted--it rests on his raised left knee--to receive the gift of life.

God appears on the right hand side of the panel as an aged but powerful man supported by angels and swarthed in a broad, salmon colored billowing cloak, floating in a featureless light blue sky. God sports white-gray hair and a white-gray, flowing beard. He wears a light pink tunic gathered at the waist that only reveals his head, his arms beyond the shoulders, and his legs from just above the knee. The angels around him are painted in shades of golden-orange and brown. Several small putti rest near his head and shoulders, their faces turned to witness the gift. Below God's outstretched right arm is a weeping angel. God's left arm is wrapped around a mature-faced, bright-eyed angel. The face of the angel appears feminine, but the angel, like the others, is nude, and the lack of developed breasts indicates it is either a male or a pre-adolescent female. God's left hand rests on the shoulder of a particularly chubby child boy angel, whose expressionless (vacant?) face is turned up and away from the scene. This angel's arms are thrust to his right and hidden by God's left leg.

God's weight appears borne by two horizontal muscular angels underneath him, whose backs are turned to us. The one bearing the most weight just under God's hips has a turquoise strip of cloth draped around his left shoulder that falls down and to the right, losing definition as it falls. None of the angels are depicted with wings.


As in much Renaissance art, the subject matter is drawn directly from Biblical source, with little reinterpretation. This panel describes part of Genesis 26-27:
    Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

    New International Version (NIV)

At the time of this noding, a nice jpg of the panel is available at

(I originally included an ASCII image of the painting, but tdent appropriately noted that it seemed like Beethoven played on a moog.)

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