Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) created art that mirrored his belief in the beauty and divinity of the human body. "The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection," he believed.
A genius in painting, sculpture, and architecture, his magnificent fresco, The Creation of Adam, on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel (1508-1512) is the pinnacle achievement, the greatest masterpiece of Renaissance art.
In the painting, God is transmitting the spark of life from his index finger to Adam's hand. The centimeters that separate the fingertips reaching are "the greatest suspension of time and narrative in the history of art," explained biographer William E. Wallace. That gesture is "the most universally recognized and frequently imitated images of all time."
To depict the Genesis Biblical scenes with over 3,000 figures, the artist painted lying on his back for four years, just a few inches from the ceiling, without ever seeing the effect of his work. He worked from east to west, from the chapel entrance to the altar.
"Until you have seen the Sistine Chapel," observed German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "you have no adequate conception of what man is capable of accomplishing."
Michelangelo's sculpted Pieta (1498-1499) and the gigantic nude statue of David (1501-04) are perfection in marble. "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free," he explained.
His creation of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica (1546-1564) became the model for domes all over the world. "What the eye can see, the hand will draw," the great master said.
"I have struggled more than any man ever has, in bad health and with the greatest labor, and still I remain patient in order to reach the desired goal."
Learning is ongoing. Open your eyes and heart.