Sistine Chapel Michelangelo Paintings

By: Lauren Mitchell Ruehring

View of the Sistine Chapel with the elaborate paintings by Michelangelo.
View of the Sistine Chapel with the elaborate paintings by Michelangelo.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings by Michelangelo were commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508. Michelangelo tried to refuse the commission, but he eventually gave in to pressure from the pope. By fall of the same year, painting on the ceiling had begun.

Working on scaffolding was physically demanding, and Michelangelo created image after image on an ever increasing scale. He eventually exerted all the power of his mind and spirit, using themes and motifs from past sculptural works in his glorious fresco masterpiece. The four-year ordeal proved physically and emotionally agonizing for the reluctant artist, who recounted, "After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-size figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become."


There is no single most advantageous point from which to view Michelangelo's colossal vision on the Sistine ceiling. Individual scenes are independent of the figures surrounding them. In Last Judgment (behind the altar at front), the master grouped the figures in four broad tiers that are connected by the clockwise movement of the figures upward from the graves at lower left and downward toward hell at right.

In this article, each page will explore another detail of this enormous piece of art. Follow the links below and discover Michelangelo's frescoes within the Sistine Chapel.

Go to the next page for an up-close view of the ceiling and to read more about this grand masterpiece.

To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: