Tuesday 24 October 2017

What Lies Beneath - Niall McMonagle: Creation of Adam

Fresco, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Rome c. 1511 by Michaelangelo (1475-1564)

Creation of Adam.
Creation of Adam.

It’s Fathers’ Day, today, in Ireland, the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa and Japan. [What about the other Dads? Why not everywhere at once?] And Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni has, in this image of God creating Adam, created the God Daddy of all Daddies inventing everyone’s Daddy if we believe what the Bible tells us. Here, God the Father is creating the man who fathered us all.

Pope Sixtus IV had The Sistine Chapel built between 1475 and 1481 but it was his nephew Pope Julius II who commissioned the painting of what is now the most famous ceiling in the world. Look up. Of the twenty-five frescoes this one is the most iconic and most famous. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the 520 square metres of ceiling and although he preferred sculpture, though he had never painted a fresco before, though he initially turned it down, a job’s a job. And he got lucky. Initially he had been asked to paint the twelve Apostles but Michelangelo thought the subject matter “paltry” and “I told the Pope that it was too poor a thing to paint only the apostles”. So, “the Pope bade me paint as I pleased”.

Genius will out.

God the Father white-haired, bearded and sporting a pinkish shift is pictured with several angelic youths against a swirling red cloak which, it has been argued, resembles the shape of the human brain.

The background is that of a soft and gentle sky and with the green rocky mountain slope to the left we are down to earth. Those outstretched arms, the fingers, not quite touching, are the picture’s main focus.

Adam, in his prime, clean-shaven, finely-tuned and muscled with a little bit of flab, tanned, hasn’t a stitch on him but the most curious thing of all is the belly button. He shouldn’t have one being not of woman born. But he looks pretty relaxed and laid-back. His expression is a mixture of admiration and amusement. And clearly, he’s not troubled by his private parts. For his teensy weeny manhood only one rather small fig leaf required.

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