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The Origin of Adam–Michelangelo Buonarroti
  1. Anna Williams
  1. Specialist Registrar, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU; E-mail: acw{at}


‘The Origin of Adam’ is the most famous of the frescoes covering the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo worked on the ceiling from 1508 to 1512. It was the first time he used the fresco technique, and the figures reveal his background in sculpture, and also his understanding of anatomy and physiology. God resides in the blood-red womb and has formed Adam’s body which has emerged to lie on the Earth, below God. Theumbilical cord(arrowed) attaching Adam to the uterus has just separated, leaving even the world’s first man with an umbilicus. The two halves of the picture are separating, and man is about to set out alone, but Adam’s soul has yet to arrive. God stretches out his finger to complete his creation. Enveloping God is what can also be seen as a sagittal view of the brain (outlined in red), symbolizing the soul ready for

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