by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
N the center of the Sistine vault is, The Creation of Eve, where for the first time Michelangelo painted the figure of the Eternal, then protagonist of all the other scenes towards the altar. It is part of the group of three stories of the ancestors, at the center of the three stories is the Creation of the World and the three stories of Noah.
The pre-eminence given to Eve by the central position can be explained by the symbolic reading of the scenes as foreshadowing’s of the New Testament. It was often referred to as a symbol of Mary, which in turn symbolized the Church in the theological tradition. Eve’s creation from the cost of Adam was therefore comparable to the birth of the Church from the blood of the crucified cost of Jesus. The centrality of this message was also underlined by the nearby depiction of Ezekiel, who spoke of the birth of the Virgin, of the vision of a time tainted by sin and abandoned by God, which will be followed by the construction of a new Temple, and of the Cumana Sibyl, which in Virgil’s IV Egloga predicts the coming of a child who would give rise to a new “Golden Age.”
Adam is lying in the lower left corner, with a diagonal position, more or less perpendicular to that of Eve’s rising body. She is prompted by an eloquent gesture of the Eternal standing before her (in the other scenes God is always in flight). God, wrapped in a wide purple cloak, which barely lets you see the pink tunic he wears in the other scenes. He has an intense look and raises his right arm, which, as in the other episodes, is the source and realization of divine will. The raised arm seems to guide Eve upwards, while she gradually emerges with her hands clasped blessing, from Adam lying asleep. The composition is made particularly effective by a play of perpendicular and parallel lines: Adam’s body is parallel to the rocky protrusion and divine arm, while Eve appears as a continuation of Adam’s stretched arm, parallel to the dry trunk. The heads of the protagonists are then arranged on a single axis that crosses diagonally the entire scene.
From a stylistic point of view, the figure of God takes up the monumental and heroic thickness of the figures of Masaccio (in the Brancacci chapel) or Giotto (in the Peruzzi chapel). Original is the hair and blonde beard of the Creator, gray in the other episodes. The scene of The Creation of Eve has as its previous iconographic closer the formella of the Porta Magna in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna by Jacopo della Quercia, studied by Michelangelo years before and probably revised in 1511, in which the three protagonists have a very similar location.
The landscape is bare and synthetic: you can see a strip of sea under a light blue sky and a green lawn, while the first floor is composed of a group of rocks sloping to the right with a dry tree to which Adam is leaning.