Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Adam Detail

by Michelangelo (1510)

God is depicted as an elderly white-bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is completely nude. God’s right arm is outstretched Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God’s, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God. Another point is that Adam’s finger and God’s finger are not touching. It gives the impression that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam who has yet to receive it; they are not on “the same level” as would be two humans shaking hands, for instance.

This painting is thought to be the best representation of the Renaissance man—well-studied in the ways of the world, and yet unsatisfied—so close to God and yet so far away.

In 1990, a physician, Frank Meshberger, noted in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the background figures and shapes portrayed behind the figure of God appeared to be an anatomically accurate picture of the human brain. On close examination, borders in the painting correlate with major sulci of the cerebrum in the inner and outer surface of the brain, the brain stem, the frontal lobe, the basilar artery, the pituitary gland and the optic chiasm.  Michelangelo was known to have studied cadavers to understand the human form.

Acts 17:26-27

26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.

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