- Bertman, Sandra
- Date of entry: Mar-27-1998
- Last revised: Jun-28-1999
Although the Creation of Adam has been portrayed many times in the history of Western art, no other image is as enduring as Michelangelo’s fresco. Adam lays back on a barren terrain, a small piece of the newly created earth. His languid pose belies his apparent physical strength. Based on classical Greek and Roman prototypes, Adam is the ideal human male with his rippling muscles and elegant contours.
However, at this particular moment, Adam is not complete. He extends his left hand out to meet the finger of God. God hovers in the air, surrounded by angels and a billowing cloak-like form. Adam is clearly made in God’s image, as seen in God’s muscular form. God stretches out with his right hand toward Adam; He looks intently and directly at Adam, who returns the gaze with longing.
As God’s outstretched finger almost meets Adam’s more passive finger, we are poised on the brink of creation. Adam is physically alive, but here God is about to endow Adam with what makes human beings truly alive: the spirit, the soul, the intellect. All of man’s potential, physical and spiritual, is contained in this one timeless moment.
Color reproductions exist in Hartt (before the ceiling's cleaning) and in Steinberg (after the cleaning): Hartt, Frederick. Michelangelo. New York: Harry N. Abrams (1984); Steinberg, Leo. Who's Who in Michelangelo's Creation of Adam: A Chronology of the Picture's Reluctant Self-Revelation, Art Bulletin, 74:4 (December 1992), pp. 552-566. For excellent color reproductions of the Sistine Chapel paintings see: Carlo Pietrangeli, et al. The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration. New York: Harry N. Abrams (1994).