Biblical Archaeology Review 46:1, January/February 2020

Epistles: Clip Art

Biblical Archaeology Review

You recognize this famous work of art. What is it called, and where is it located?

A. Genesis
Laon Cathedral, France
B. The Creation of Adam
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
C. The Birth of Man
Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, Bulgaria
D. The Breath of Life
Il Duomo, Florence, Italy
E. Pull My Finger
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Israel

Answer: (B)

The Creation of Adam, painted by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (aka, Michelangelo) c. 1508-1512, is the fourth in a series of panels done as part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. Painted in the fresco style (painted quickly on wet plaster), the work illustrates the biblical narratives in Genesis 1-2 of God giving life to Adam.

Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling in 1508. The original plan was to paint 12 apostles in the pendentives (curved triangles of vaulting) with decorative motifs around the rest of the ceiling. However, Michelangelo considered this a “poor thing” and convinced the pope to allow him to paint whatever he saw fit. This included nine stories from Genesis, 12 prophets and sibyls (male prophets from Israel and female prophetesses from the Classical world), Christ’s forefathers, and episodes of the people of Israel’s salvation, to name but a few pieces of this grand ceiling.

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