Study for Adam by Michelangelo, a red chalk drawing

Michelangelo, Study for Adam

Study for Adam, c1511, red chalk

Height: 193.000 mm
Width: 259.000 mm

PD 1926-10-9-1 (recto)

This is the only surviving study for Adam in the Creation of Adam scene on the Sistine ceiling and it was drawn from a live model. According to the Bible, Adam was the first man to be created by God. Michelangelo manages to make the impossible position of Adam's upper body look convincing, because his observation of his muscular form and the play of light on it is compellingly realistic.

Michelangelo must have made a number of further drawings of Adam before the production of the cartoon (the full-size drawing which would have been transferred onto the ceiling). The head and the hands are only in outline here so would have needed refining.

Examination of the Sistine vault has shown that Michelangelo quickened the pace at which he painted in the second phase of his work. This change in tempo was due to a growing command of painting in fresco that allowed him to work with greater confidence. His desire to finish such a physically exhausting project, coupled with the pressure almost certainly exerted on him by his impatient patron, may also have contributed to his speed. However his preparation methods remained as meticulous as before.