Scala/Art Resource

Separating the light from the darkness, Michelangelo (1508–1521). Michelangelo’s ecstatic vision of God separating the light from the darkness expresses the oneness of God’s physical being with the elements. God pushes the darkness away with his right hand and cups his left hand about the light. His twisting, turning, reaching body is illumined by colors as brilliant as the 19th century Impressionist yellow, apricot and cerise. Michelangelo’s frescoes appear to us today to be painted in a range of pale opaque colors and are veined by cracks that have accumulated in the almost 500 years since the artist completed the painting of the Sistine Chapel vault. However, the recently initiated but slow and painstaking work of cleaning and conserving the frescoes has unveiled astonishing brilliance and range of color.