The narrative begins at the altar and is divided into three sections. In the first three paintings, Michelangelo tells the story of The Creation of the Heavens and Earth; this is followed by The Creation of Adam and Eve and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden; finally is the story of Noah and the Great Flood.
Ignudi, or nude youths, sit in fictive architecture around these frescoes, and they are accompanied by prophets and sibyls (ancient seers who, according to tradition, foretold the coming of Christ) in the spandrels. In the four corners of the room, in the pendentives, one finds scenes depicting the Salvation of Israel.
Michelangelo completed the Sistine Chapel in 1512. Its importance in the history of art cannot be overstated. It turned into a veritable academy for young painters, a position that was cemented when Michelangelo returned to the chapel twenty years later to execute the Last Judgment fresco on the altar wall.
The chapel recently underwent a controversial cleaning, which has once again brought to light Michelangelo’s jewel-like palette, his mastery of chiaroscuro, and additional iconological details which continue to captivate modern viewers even five hundred years after the frescoes’ original completion. Not bad for an artist who insisted he was not a painter.
Adapted from an essay by Christine Zappella
All info., including image, adapted from: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/renaissance-reformation/high-ren-florence-rome/michelangelo/a/michelangelo-ceiling-of-the-sistine-chapel
1. This is one of the most exceptional, significant, and famous works of art in the world. What is it about the way Michelangelo painted that earns it this honor?
2. What specific parallels can you draw between the Libyan Sibyl and both Kritios Boy and Doryphoros?