Michelangelo, Creation of Adam, 1512


"BBC - h2g2 - The Mystery of Michelangelo's 'Creation of Adam'." BBC - Homepage. N.p., 14 Feb. 2002. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A681680>.

Reason to Use Source

It was particularly difficult to find enough information centered on just this section of the Sistine Chapel. This website was selected because it seemed to explore the painting objectively and from a few different angles. The author of the page seemed genuinely concerned with the meaning and context of the work of art, as well as what was going on in the artist's (Michelangelo's) mind at the time of the painting. Also, I chose this website because I knew that BBC News would be a reliable source, with facts that have been verified and information that had been properly credited. I really needed a site that would be informative without being too complicated, as I knew I wouldn't be able to get the most out of websites with advanced art terminology.

Research Notes
  • The Artist's View
    • Painted around 300 figures
    • Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
  • A New Perspective
    • Unnamed by author
    • Carries deeper meaning
    • Not being physically created, but receiving "something momentous" from God
    • "spark" between fingers of God and Adam
    • Appears that God is sitting in a human brain shape
  • Anatomy of a Master
    • Knowledge of anatomy
  • Religious Symbolism, Philosophy, or Humour?
    • Symbolism in Sistine Chapel is everywhere
    • Neo-Platonism
      • Truth of God cannot be communicated
        • Any image of God is just a creation of mind
          • Could be why He is depicted in a bran-shaped space
  • The Mind's Eye
    • May just be trick of perception
      • If you think it is there, you can see it

"Rome.info > Creation of Adam, Michelangelo." Rome.info > Rome tourist information, Ancient Rome travel guide. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2010. <http://www.rome.info/michelangelo/sistine-chapel/creation-of-adam/>.
Reason to use source

  • Painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City by Michelangelo
  • Sistine Chapel finished around 1511
  • Creation of Adam: God giving Adam, the first man, life
    • Space between fingers is to create anticipation of when God actually gave Adam life
  • Very large to draw attention
  • Only took two or three weeks to finish, only took 4 days to paint Adam
I used this source for a few reasons. First of all, it seemed like it would have reliable information, because it is from a travel-guide website for Rome. There was not a lot of information on this website about the Creation of Adam, but there was enough for me to get the facts I needed. Also, it was difficult to find websites about this specific painting, and this one actually had the most information on solely the Creation of Adam scene. Lastly, compared to many other sites, this one was very neutral and offered facts, not opinions, which is what I needed for this project.

"Smarthistory: a multimedia web-book about art and art history." Smarthistory: a multimedia web-book about art and art history. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2010. <http://smarthistory.org/>.

Reason to Use Source
This source was informative and helpful for more general information about the context of the painting. Specifically, the source explained the culture and political climate, unlike the others that were used for the project. It looked at the art from a more educational perspective as opposed to that of an artist, and this variety of information was something that we thought would be beneficial to our understanding of The Creation of Adam. Overall, it was chosen because we knew that the source was reliable and completely unbiased about the painting and the time period.

Research Notes
Articles used: Florence in the Early Renaissance, High Renaissance, Flanders
Florence in the Early Renaissance:
  • Renaissance starts in early 15th century
  • Italy is divided into city-states
  • Florence is powerful city-state and the center of the Italian Renaissance
    • Is a republic-- small percentage of people vote
    • Political power belongs to wealthy families
  • Why Florence?
    • Growing middle-upper class
    • Focus on freedom of individual
    • Power is strong
      • Threatened many times, but pulls through
        • "prepared to sacrifice for the cause of freedom and liberty"
    • Humanism thrives
  • Anatomy
    • Human anatomy becomes important to art
      • Greco-Roman ideas about human body become true again
    • Middle Ages--> body is temporary, representative of sin and temptation
    • Renaissance--> artists are anxious to learn about body and reflect its beauty in art
  • Naturalism
    • Use science to make more realistic art
    • Want more recognition--> were considered manual laborers during Middle Ages
      • Art happens with brain and hands
The High Renaissance:
  • Michelangelo-- Sistine Ceiling is important Western work
  • High Renaissance?
    • Humanism becomes growing movement
      • Spiritual figures become realistic as well as spiritual
        • Da Vinci is example -- angels look human and spiritual at same time
  • Second Renaissance in Flanders (culture is Flemish)
    • Controlled by Dukes of Burgundy
    • Art and rising middle class are key features
    • Developed separately from Italian Renaissance
      • Land barriers make communication between difficult
  • Classical:
    • Not a rebirth of Greek and Roman culture like in Florence
  • Oil Paint:
    • Northern artists invent oil paint
      • Works last longer, colors mix better


The entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo in four years; it was finished around 1511. Michelangelo was born in1452 and died in 1519. He was a sculptor, painter, and architect, and along with painting the Sistine Chapel, he created the statue of David and designed St. Peter's Cathedral. The Creation of Adam is just one scene that is painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. The Creation of Adam painting brings to life the moment when God gave Adam, the first man, life. The picture shows God reaching out to Adam, with both of their hands outstretched. There is a space between the fingers of God and Adam, to create anticipation of when God actually gave Adam spiritual life. Compared to the rest of the figures painted on the ceiling, Adam and God are very large and draw attention.This scene was based on a story from Genesis, the first book the Christian Bible.

In early 15th century Italy, a cultural movement was brewing. What was once a focus on living a life that will get merit an invitation to heaven became a rebirth of the ideals in the ancient Greco-Roman world. There became a strong belief in individual achievement and betterment that was known as Humanism, and as this new philosophy grew, so did education and the arts. There are some pieces from the time period that exemplify this newly revisited quest for knowledge and advancement. A section of the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel commonly known as The Creation of Adam is one such piece. According the Bible, God created Adam as the world's first man. This painting, created as part of the Biblical history of the world (a work commissioned by Julius II) shows God passing his eternal knowledge onto his creation. It is an example of Renaissance Humanism because it combines the idea of spirituality and the belief in God with the modern for the time artistic technique of realism, in which art is created to look as it should appear to the human eye in real life. Even though God is a Biblical figure, he is depicted with mostly human features; the figure of Adam in this painting portrays the humanist ideal of the beauty in the human body. Adam is also key to the idea of Renaissance ideals in the painting because of the anatomic corectness of his figure. Renaissance artists often studied human anatomy in order to make their art more real-- just another example of the quest for individual advancement that was so important to the time period. The work The Creation of Adam is representative of Renaissance ideals because it combines the quest for knowledge and advancement as well as still-important belief in Christianity that were so characteristic of the time period.