It is hard to mention Rome and Italian arts without referring to Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) and his masterpieces on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. Many of these paintings, such as The Creation of Adam, Temptation and Expulsion, and The Flood, to name but a few, are so iconic that they have become both inspirations and standards for many artists around the world.
One of the most famous paintings on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is The Creation of Adam. In this artwork, Michelangelo depicted God as an old man in swirling garments who was flying toward a naked Adam with his attendants. He was reaching out to Adam in a near-touch that would give him life while Adam was imitating the movement of God. The meaning of that tiny distance between the two figures' fingers is that God, the Supreme Being, is absolutely superior to a mere human, who is but an imitation of the perfect God: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Genesis 1:27).
Without doubt, this is a repetitive theme in Michelangelo's works since he once stated: “For good painting is nothing but a copy of the perfections of God and a recollection of His painting,” and “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." Indeed, Michelangelo truly believed that beauty does not come from within oneself but rather a reflection of the nature crafted by God. That holy perfection is present in everything around us, even in the most common objects. Therefore, an artist is only the one who uses his intellect to release that hidden heavenly beauty to make a manifestation of the divine God.
Almost all of the paintings on the vault of the Sistine Chapel had biblical themes, among them was the Great Flood of Noah, an apocalyptical event that resulted from the wrath of God. In this painting, chaotic throngs of human were seeking shelter from the flood and running for their lives while Noah’s ark was steering away in the far distance. Michelangelo was indeed very fascinated with violent and chaotic themes, since his artworks usually demonstrated twisted figures and human sufferings. This was definitely under the influence of Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian Dominican friar, whose sermons repetitively warned people of human sins and the punishment of a wrathful God. Michelangelo was obsessed with these teachings and always afraid of an eternal damnation from God, but his talents could even make beauty out of this fear and create masterpieces from human's pain and suffering.