The Creation of Adam  

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works of art in the collective unconscious, Adam and Eve on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The Creation of Adam is a section of Michelangelo's fresco Sistine Chapel ceiling painted circa 1511. It illustrates the Biblical story from the Book of Genesis in which God the Father breathes life into Adam, the first man. Chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis on the Sistine ceiling, it was among the last to be completed.


God is depicted as an elderly bearded man wrapped in a swirling cloak while Adam, on the lower left, is completely naked. God's right arm is outstretched to impart the spark of life from his own finger into that of Adam, whose left arm is extended in a pose mirroring God's, a reminder that man is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). Another point is that Adam's finger and God's finger are not touching. It gives the appearance that God, the giver of life, is reaching out to Adam and Adam is receiving. The pink backdrop behind God is in the shape of a brain. Michelangelo may have used this symbol to show God's plan of creation which had not yet been revealed to the first man. Also, Michelangelo may have used this symbol to show God is just an invention of Men, being Adam the creator of God.

The inspiration for Michelangelo's treatment of the subject may come from a medieval hymn called Veni Creator Spiritus, which asks the 'finger of the paternal right hand' (digitus paternae dexterae) to give the faithful speech, love and strength. [1]

Influence on popular culture

As one of the most well-known artworks of all time, The Creation of Adam has been subject to a number of parodies. Many of these parodies substitute different characters for God, Adam, or both.

  • It is the first image seen—even before "Leo the Lion" -- during the overture and opening credits to the 1959 version of Ben-Hur. The camera moves in slowly on the image, finally focusing on God's and Adam's hands.
  • The original publicity poster for the film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial depicting ET's hand touching that of a boy was modeled after the painting.
  • The painting was also seen as a background in the arcade game Magic Sword, mainly on Floor 38. However, the scaled-down SNES port of this game does not have this background.
  • The first opening of the Death Note anime series has a still frame based on The Creation of Adam, with the protagonist Light Yagami as Adam and the death god Ryuk as God, holding an apple.
  • In an episode of Arrested Development, The Creation of Adam is recreated with living representations.
  • In an episode of Family Guy, Peter Griffin, hired to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, paints an OBEY stencil instead of The Creation of Adam.
  • In an episode of The Critic, Alice shows Jay an exact replica of The Creation of Adam that she painted on her apartment wall.
  • In the TV version of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the faces of Adam and God are used to illustrate the Guide's entry for the Babel Fish.
  • Spaceship Earth, a ride at Disney's Epcot theme park in Orlando, Florida, depicts the painting of The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the chapel, just before transitioning to the invention of the steam engine.
  • In the 2008 videogame Grand Theft Auto IV, the character Bernie has the painting on the wall of his apartment, only instead of Adam, Bernie's face has been painted over it.
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, David Bowman reaches out to touch the monolith before the monolith gives him the spark of life to transform into a Star-Child.
  • The artist Benedict Campbell did a futuristic re-interpretation of The Creation of Adam, featuring only Adam and a female God, wearing skin tight silver body suits, and suspended within an open building reminiscent of Greek architecture: [2]
  • A promotional poster for the film Bruce Almighty is based on the Creation of Adam, with actor Jim Carrey (who played the role of Bruce Nolan, the lead character of the movie) taking the place of Adam.
  • In the film 2012's trailer, the Sistine Chapel's ceiling is shown cracking between God and Adam's hands.
  • In Atlantis Squarepantis,a painting is shown similar to it with Squidward as Adam and a bearded squid as God.
  • "The Creation of Adam" is seen on the bottom of Frank's swimming pool in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Creation of Adam" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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