The Majesty of the Sistine ceiling

The style of painting, sculpture and decorative arts identified with the Renaissance reached its zenith in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, in the work of Italian masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling’s most famous panel, entitled “The Creation of Adam.” is painted before our eyes by Michelangelo Buonarroti as we are surrounded by the sounds of Hallelujahs.


Still photos of this scene do not do it justice as there are some subtle movements that make the act of painting look pretty realistic.


In reality, the size of the entire Sistine ceiling is about the size of 2 basketball courts done in fresco.   The section being worked on, The Creation of Adam is about 9 ft 2 in x 18 ft 8 in (1).  There are a few interesting points of controversy that have been raised from this scene.

Left or Right Handed?

In previous ride versions, Michelangelo is presented as painting with this left hand.  There are numerous sources claiming that Michelangelo was left handed and there are others that dispute this by studying his art.


Its possible that like my older left handed relatives he had to train to use his right hand as dominant.  Either way, the latest depiction of the scene shows Michelangelo painting with his right hand but also holding  a palette with the left.



Costume sketch from Walt Disney Archives

Laying Down or Standing Up?

Michelangelo and his assistants used wooden scaffolds that allowed them to stand upright and reach above their heads. Michelangelo himself designed the unique system of platforms, which were attached to the walls with brackets. The impression that Michelangelo painted on his back might come from the 1965 film “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” in which Charlton Heston portrayed the genius behind the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling (2).

ⓒ Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans/YOONIQ Images
Charlton Heston as Michelangelo ⓒ Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans/YOONIQ Images

Of course the concept art for the ride by illustrator Claudio Mazzoli also shows Michelangelo laying down (3).

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Below is a more likely depiction of how the painting took place.

Michaelangelo Painting the Sistine Chapel. Original artwork for illustration in The Bible Story or Look and Learn by Jack Hayes © Look and Learn

And here, is the ride’s method of completion by a Disney Imagineer!

February 15, 2008 – current
Narrated by Judy Dench

Books make it easier to invent the future in every field, and the result is an incredible explosion of innovation that we call the Renaissance.

November 23, 1994 to July 9, 2007
Narrated by Jeremy Irons

Scientists, explorers, and scholars spread their discoveries in books and essays. Poets, musicians, and artists fueled by the passion of the age created timeless works of beauty and majesty.

May 26, 1986 to August 15, 1994 (narrated by Walter Cronkite)

The Renaissance, a time of renewed interest in the worlds of poetry and music, science, philosophy and art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

October 1, 1982 – May 25, 1986 (narrated by Larry Dobkin)

Our books fuel the fires of the Renaissance. It is a time to discover anew the worlds of poetry and philosophy, science and music. As our minds soar, our hands find new expression in the flourishing world of art. Behold, the majesty of the Sistine ceiling.

July 22, 1977 – Ray Bradbury script