Scala/Art Resource

Creation of the sun and the moon, Michelangelo (1508–1521). Human in form, but heroic in size, Michelangelo’s God, engaged in the acts of creation, moves with immense power across the ceiling of Rome’s Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo used Genesis chapters 1 and 2 as his text, from which he depicated God dividing the light from the darkness (1:4), the creation of the sun and the moon and plants (1:11–19), God dividing the waters from the earth (1:9), the creation of man (1:27) and Eve’s birth from the side of Adam (2:21).

Here, God creates the sun and the moon. God is seen twice. On the right, with a great rush of movement, God thrusts forward. With a mighty gesture of his right hand, he throws the sun into being and with his left hand, the moon. In the other half of the painting, God moves away from us, showing us his backside and the soles of his feet as he casts the moon into the heavens. The creation panels are framed by painted architectural moldings and robust nude sculptural figures. To the spectator standing below and looking up, the moldings give the illusion of an aperture in the chapel ceiling that allows a view of the heavens above. We the spectators become witnesses of God’s great creative acts.