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“Studies of a reclining Male Nude” by Michelangelo


Adam study - Michelangelo

“Studies of a Reclining Male Nude” by Michelangelo

“Studies of a Reclining Male Nude” is a rare drawing by Michelangelo to have survived of the reclining figure of Adam reaching out to God the Father, whose touch grants him life. This study of Adam was in preparation for the fresco of ‘The Creation of Man’ on the vault of the Sistine Chapel. It was drawn in dark red chalk over some stylus underdrawing. The reverse side of this paper has a drawing, also in red chalk, of the “Head of a Youth,” turned to the right, wearing a headscarf.

Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. The ceiling painting is that of the Sistine Chapel, the large papal chapel built within the Vatican starting in 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV, for whom the chapel is named. The chapel is the location for papal conclaves during which Popes are elected. Michelangelo’s painted was commissioned by Pope Julius II.

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam 03

Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel

The Creation of Adam depicts the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam, the first man. The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic. This image is one of the most recognized and replicated religious paintings of all time.

Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the Renaissance who was born in Florence, and who had a significant influence on the development of Western art. He is described as one of the greatest artists of all time, and he is often considered as a contender for the title of the leading representative of Renaissance man, along with his rival, Leonardo da Vinci.

Studies of a Reclining Male Nude

  • Title:               Studies of a Reclining Male Nude
  • Artist:             Michelangelo
  • Date:              1510
  • Material:        Dark red chalk on paper
  • Dimensions:  19.3 x 25.9 cm
  • Museum:       The British Museum


A Tour of the British Museum

Collections of the British Museum

Ancient Egypt and Sudan Collection

Middle East Collection

Ancient Greece and Rome Collection

Britain, Europe, and Prehistory Collection

Asian Collection

Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection

The Prints and Drawings Collection


  • How much did Michelangelo’s work in sculpture influence this drawing?
  • Michelangelo taught himself to paint in fresco, and he painted three hundred figures on the three-thousand-square-foot Sistine ceiling. Michelangelo had exceptional stamina and the driving discipline to finish this mega-project once he started. Do the Sistine Chapel paintings demonstrate that genius is not enough, and it needs to be backed by sustained disciplined work-effort?
  • In comparison to Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci did not complete all the projects he started, as da Vinci was more interested in experimentation in many different diverse fields of study. However, Da Vinci was more famous and had greater patronage during his lifetime. Is this why Michelangelo did not like Da Vinci and saw him as his rival?
  • Did Michelangelo examine dead bodies and explore muscle structures on cadavers?
  • Does Michelangelo depict volume better than Leonardo da Vinci?


“Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.”
– Michelangelo


Photo Credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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