The Genesis Fresco

The Italian Renaissance was a time in history that can be remembered through art, music, theater, and the movement of humanism. However, if not for the influences, politics, religion, and new science and technology, the Italian Renaissance would not have flourished would it not have been for these factors.

When looking into the Italian Renaissance period, there is a clear connection between religion and the arts. The Reinvention of Rome by the Catholic Church can be used as an example to explain the connection.

The Genesis Fresco

The Genesis Fresco was painted by Michelangelo from 1508-1512 unwillingly under the supervision of Pope Julius II (Zappella,2016). The painting is located in the Vatican in Rome, painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (Collins,2016).


The Genesis Fresco, Michelangelo (1)

The painting had taken a total of four years to complete, and as it had been painted on the ceiling, Michelangelo had stated that his health had declined from this experience (“Sistine Chapel Ceiling Analysis.”,2015).



Earlier, I mentioned the connection between religion and the arts during the Italian Renessiance. The connection between the two may not be seen as positive to everyone. The Genesis Fresco can connect the arts and religion by analyzing the relationship between Michelangelo and Pope Julius II. An example I had mentioned earlier is when Michelangelo had painted the Genesis Fresco unwillingly under Julius supervision, as Michelangelo was primarily a sculptor, not a painter (Collins,2016).


Pope Julius II
 had made history from his reign as pope from 1503-1513 (Collins, 2016). Julius had wanted to make Rome the political and art center of all Europe (Collins,2016). Due to this aspiration of Julius, it had led him to commission and influence the creation of the Genesis Fresco (Collins,2016)

Aesthetic Appreciation

The element of the Genesis Fresco is the religious history related to the painting, as Michelangelo had proposed to paint the Old Testament scenes instead of a geometric ornament (Zappella,2016).



When looking at the Genesis Fresco, one can be overwhelmed by the amount of details within the painting. As you look closer you can see in the center are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis (Collins,2016). Surrounding the nine scenes are the ancestors of Christ, seven prophets, five sibyls, and four scenes from the Old Testament (“Sistine Chapel Ceiling Analysis.”,2015). The photo of the Genesis Fresco above shows which painting displays which story. Out of the nine scenes, the Creation of Adam is the centerpiece and most well known of the painting (Collins, 2016)


The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo

As I have studied the Genesis Fresco, there are key elements I have found that standout in the painting. The Creation of Adam for example, one can see the amount of detail that went into creating the human bodies within the painting. This detail has stayed in my mind as I have examined Michelangelo’s work as it is present throughout the Genesis Fresco.

Another aspect of his painting that is appealing is his use of light and shading. The shading technique he used is marvelous, as you can see it in each panel. When you look at the Genesis Fresco up close, you can see the amount of shading that it took to complete the painting. As for the element of light, it can be said the painting reflects “very lightly lit and bright” tones (“Sistine Chapel Ceiling Analysis.”, 2015). I can see the light tone, yet I enjoy the dark contrast in the few panels.



The Deluge, Michelangelo


The last element that had stood out to me from the Genesis Fresco is the facial expressions. For example, The Deluge encapsulates the variety of facial expressions used by Michelangelo. When analyzed, the expressions of the individuals painted in The Deluge look terrified yet exudes hope. This stood out as I could only imagine how Michelangelo had felt as he was painting the Genesis Fresco. I have wondered how Michelangelo wanted his work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling to be interpreted and read, considering his situation.

The Sistine Chapel was the centerpiece of the Reinvention of Rome by the Catholic Church, which allowed the Catholic Church to build its power and influence. That influence had led to the painting of the Genesis Fresco.


Work Cited

Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo.” Art Encyclopedia. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “Genesis Fresco by Michelangelo.” Art Encyclopedia. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART EDUCATION, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Collins, Neil, MA LLB. “Renaissance Art in Rome Under the Popes.” Art Encyclopedia. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART HISTORY, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Collins, Neil. “Pope Julius II.” Art Encyclopedia. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ART EDUCATION, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Harris, Beth, Dr., and Steven Zucker, Dr. “Michelangelo: Sculptor, Painter, Architect and Poet.” Khan Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
“Sistine Chapel Ceiling Analysis.” Artble. N.p., 15 Sept. 2015. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
“Sistine Chapel Ceiling.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Sept. 2016. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.
Zappella, Christine. “Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.” Khan Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.



One thought on “The Genesis Fresco

  1. It’s pretty amazing that Michelangelo was able to paint such a large painting that tells the story of the Old Testament with so many details under protest. Even with pressure from such a powerful person like Pope Julius II, I would imagine it would be hard to put so much effort into something like this, especially since it wasn’t his preferred art form. I like that this fresco shows so much and every time you look at it, you can see something different. You could look at the same section of the painting a hundred times and see something different each time. I’m sure that has contributed to it’s continued popularity and the vast number of reproductions.I also like that the whole story is shown as a whole, but individual stories are each given a separate section, so that you can see the unity of the stories and see that each story has it’s own inherent importance. It’s similar to Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgement”, which was another fresco he painted in the Sistine Chapel.


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