The Story Behind the Sistine Chapel’s Stunning Ceiling by Michelangelo

Iconography

The center of the ceiling is composed of nine scenes from Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament. These panels are surrounded by portraits of important individuals from the Bible. In total, 343 figures are incorporated into the scenes. These include characters from well-known narratives—including the story of Adam and Eve and the Great Flood—as well as Jesus' ancestors, those who predicted his birth, and Ignudi, or nude males.

 

Central Scenes

The Separation of Light from Darkness

 

The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Vegetation

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: Sistine Chapel via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

The Separation of Land and Water

 

The Creation of Adam

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

The Creation of Eve

 

The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden

 

The Sacrifice of Noah

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: HumanitiesWeb via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

The Great Flood

 

The Drunkenness of Noah

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: Jorge Valenzuela A via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

Examples of Figures

The Prophet Daniel

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

The Delphic Sibyl

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

 

Jesus' Ancestors, Jesse, David, and Solomon

 

Ignudo

Legacy

Today, the Sistine Chapel remains both a popular tourist destination and highly religious site. Roughly 25,000 people view the spectacular ceiling each day, proving the lasting legacy of one of Michelangelo's most well-known works and of the striking art of the High Renaissance.

Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling Sistine Chapel Painting Sistine Chapel Vatican

Photo: via Wikimedia Commons{{PD-US}}

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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