Photo by Ezra LibillasThe Creation of Adam, 1511, Michelangelo Buonarroti
|The Creation of Adam (detail), 1511, Michelangelo, Buonarroti|
(as seen before the Sistine ceiling restoration, 1980-92)
The centerpiece of this centerpiece is the sky, the negative space between the two figures wherein the powerful, outreaching, index finger of God makes psychological contact with the heavy, limp, digital appendage of man in his feeble attempt to reach for the divine spark of life. Secondary to this is the eye contact between the stern, yet loving God and the passive, awestruck, Adam. Linking the two figures are a series of curved, parallel lines, the first between the eyes, then others along the arms, between the hips, the knees, and the feet of both figures. The result is a dynamic symmetry, a mirror image, God reflected in man, devoted, strong, and innocent. Michelangelo's biographer, Vasari considered him the culmination of an Italian painting tradition dating back two hundred years to Giotto, passing through Duccio, Masaccio, and Mantegna. If so, then the culmination of that line also finds its terminus in The Creation of Adam and beyond that, the creation of modern painting as we know it.