Scala/Art Resource, NY

Noah offers sacrifices “of every clean animal and of every clean bird” after the Flood waters recede (Genesis 8:20). In Michelangelo’s rendition, shown prior to the recent restoration, Noah’s sons stoke the fire and prepare the rams while Noah and his wife stand behind the altar.

Strangely, in the sequence of Old Testament stories painted across the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Noah’s sacrifice is out of place: It precedes the Flood. This is no slip by Michelangelo, but a striking clue to the artist’s carefully planned theological program for the ceiling, in which Genesis scenes are treated as precursors to New Testament events, as explained in the sidebar to this article. In Michelangelo’s plan, Noah’s sacrifice corresponds to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.