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.
- Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Get an overall look at this magnificent work.
- Delphic Sibyl Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: This page looks further at a detail, Delphic Sibyl, the most youthful and beautiful of the chapel sibyls.
- Separation of Light and Darkness Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Learn more about the work that is directly above the altar and its symbolic placement there.
- Creation of Sun, Moon, and Planets Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: See and read about this dynamic detail of the sun, moon, and planets of the Sistine ceiling.
- Creation of Adam Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Perhaps the most familiar section of the entire ceiling is the touch of God, as Michelangelo depicted the creation of man. Find out more about this detail.
- Deluge Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: This scene of the great flood was one of the early works on the ceiling. Learn about the development in Michelangelo's paintings.
- Creation of Eve Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: In this scene, Michelangelo changed God's appearance from the other creation scenes. Read more about Eve's creation.
- Fall of Man Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Find out why this depiction of the Original Sin was so groundbreaking when Michelangelo painted it.
- Cumaean Sibyl Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Learn more about the sibyls and Michelangelo's usage of them, characters from ancient myths, within a Christian context.
- Prophet Isaiah Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Isaiah is one of Michelangelo's most finely depicted prophets. See details of this work.
- Libyan Sibyl Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Read about Michelangelo's color palette for this sumptuous figure.
- Prophet Daniel Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Learn about the significance of the Old Testament prophets' presences on the ceiling, and also about Michelangelo's purpose of painting his figures of enormous proportions.
- Ignudi Within the Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Twenty nude youths surround the ceiling's scenes. Learn out about the significance of their nudity.
Go to the next page for an up-close view of the ceiling and to read more about this grand masterpiece.