Michelangelo’s Masterpiece: Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Rome

Michelangelo’s Masterpiece: Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Rome


We all have heard the phrase “You can be the Michel Angelo of your life” which means that you can make your life as you want. You can paint it in any color you like. Who was Michelangelo? Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) was a brilliant Italian artist who is best known for some really amazing artistic masterpieces like the triumphant sculpture David, the controversial Last Judgment and his paintings on the magnificent ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. His obsession with physical beauty and the nude male form influenced much of his work and sculptures, paintings and buildings continue to inspire and awe art lovers today. We will come to know more about the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in this article, a sheer masterpiece from this one of its kind artist.

The Sistine Chapel is located at the Vatican City, a sovereign state within the city of Rome, Italy, The residence of Pope. It is the last room that visitors see when touring the Vatican Museums.



Actually, Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor instead of painter but in his 30s, he was commanded by Julius II to stop work on the tomb and to devote his considerable talents to painting ceiling frescoes. Michelangelo worked for 4 years (1508-1512) over this hilarious project and it was so taxing that it permanently damaged his eyesight. Michelangelo never knew that a project undertaken by him forcefully would form his most enduring legend.

The Artwork


The Sistine Chapel, which is also known as the grand chapel around the world, measures 40.23 metres long by 13.40 metres wide and reaches 20.7 metres above the ground at highest point. The floor is inlaid with polychrome marble and the room contains an altar, a small choristers’ gallery, and a six paneled marble screen that divides the room into areas for clergy and congregants. There are eight windows lining the upper reaches of the walls. Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling and the altar are the most famous paintings in the Sistine Chapel.

The Ceiling


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The Sistine Chapel ceiling is divided into 9 central panels, which depict “The creation of the world, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve and The story of Noah”. The most famous of these nine panels is The Creation of Adam, which shows the figure of God touching the fingertip of Adam in order to bring him back to life. To the Central panels and in the lunettes, Michelangelo painted grandiose images of the prophets and sibyls.


As the ceiling transitions from the scenes of Noah to those of Adam and Eve and their eventual expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Michelangelo’s improvement in the medium of fresco is evident. An examination on the plaster shows that by the middle of the project Michelangelo had forsaken all the work except the final coat. He painted with great sweeping brushstrokes and his speed intensified as he neared completion.

The Last Judgment

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The Last Judgment is a painting above the altar. It took six years to complete. Michelangelo began working on it three decades after finishing the ceiling of the Chapel. The work is massive and spans the entire wall behind the altar of Sistine Chapel. This painting is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the apocalypse. The wall on which the Last Judgment is painted cants out slightly over the viewer as it rises, and is meant to be somewhat fearful and to instill piety and respect for God’s power. In contrast to the other frescoes in the Chapel, the figures are heavily muscled and appear somewhat tortured-even the Virgin Mary at the center cowers beneath him. It is really a must see Painting.

The North Wall

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North wall on the eye level, the wall is covered by a set of tapestries, which are normally covered. Above the tapestries are two series of paintings – ‘The Life of Moses’ and ‘The Life of Christ’. They complement each other and were commissioned in 1480 during the construction of the building. There are also some paintings by Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli on the northern wall. Perugino and Pinturicchio Baptism show the deeper spiritual belief of the new religion, Christianity. The Baptism of Christ is equivalent to the spiritual circumcision of Judaism, depicted on the painting on the opposite wall. In Botticelli, there is a Jewish sacrificial offering scene, with the girl offering a bowl of blood to the priest. This is a hint of the coming crucifixion of Christ, who offers his flesh and blood for the salvation of mankind.

The South Wall

 south wall

South Wall above the row of paintings is a row of portraits of popes. Above the popes are paintings of the Ancestors of Christ. Above them is a row decorative painting. For great ceremonial occasions the lowest portions of the side walls were covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and Woven in 1515-19 at Brussels.


The Sistine Chapel Ceiling has been the most visited, discussed, celebrated and indeed one of the largest paintings in the history of art. You just come and admire the beauty and artistic intelligence of Michelangelo on these walls and ceiling.

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