Michelangelo Buonarroti, Study for Adam, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1510-11

Study for the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

This beautiful red chalk drawing of the male nude is for the figure of Adam painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Rome. He reclines on his right side, his left arm resting on his left leg stretches out to receive life from God. At the lower left is a study for his right hand.

Michelangelo has exploited the qualities of the red chalk to create a warmth of tone as he drew from the life model. He concentrated on the torso and upper legs of his model whose ideal anatomy is indicated by shading, especially on the chest and stomach areas. Around the outside of the whole body he has reinforced the edge with a strong line. The figure appears to be as much like a sculpture as a painting, and Michelangelo considered himself primarily a sculptor.

Michelangelo was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II in 1505, spending the years 1508 to 1512 decorating the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He painted the figure of Adam, on the second half of the ceiling, around 1511. The pose of Adam as painted in the fresco is almost unchanged from this working drawing. Michelangelo would have used a full-size cartoon to transfer the final design to the ceiling itself.

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Michelangelo Buonarroti, Study for Adam, a drawing

Study for Adam, c1511, red chalk


More information


M. Hirst, Michelangelo and his drawings (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988)

J. Wilde, Italian drawings in the Depa-2 (London, The British Museum Press, 1953)

J.A. Gere and N. Turner, Drawings by Michelangelo in th, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1975)


Height: 193.000 mm
Width: 259.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1926-10-9-1 (recto)



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