The 12 Most Famous Paintings by Michelangelo

famous paintings by Michelangelo

These are the 12 most famous paintings by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo (1475-1564), a sculptor, painter, and architect, is usually regarded as one of the greatest Renaissance painters, if not the best of all time. Most of his art had a never-before-seen combination of psychological insight, physical reality, and passion.

The Creation of Adam (1512)

Certainly one of the most famous paintings by Michelangelo, this is a painting of Adam, who is in a relaxed state, getting life straight from the source, and by the life given to him, he will bring life to all of mankind, and God, who is in a condition that is not untouchable or far from Man, but rather one that he may approach.

Michelangelo’s painting style is characterized by the reclining positions of both Adam and God, the utilization of muscular and twisting forms, and the portrayal of figures that appear to be sculptures.

The Entombment (1501)

This is a painting of Mary, St. James, and Simon of Cyrene carrying the body of Jesus Christ up the steps to the garden tomb where he would be laid to rest. It’s a terrific example of Michelangelo’s painting process. He first drew a sketch, then painted the various elements and colors one by one. According to a Farnese inventory, Michelangelo’s painting is unfinished.

The Last Judgment (1534–1541)

Another of the most famous paintings by Michelangelo is The Last Judgement, a painting of both Christ’s second coming and God’s final and eternal judgment on all humanity. It has nearly 300 figures, most of the angels and male figures who were initially drawn naked. It’s on the altar wall, in the Sistine Chapel, at the church’s east end. This is one of the ways it differs from tradition, making it an interesting work of art.

The Doni Tondo (1504–1506)

This is a painting of the Christian Holy Family (the child Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph) in the foreground, with John the Baptist in the background, and five ambiguous naked male characters. The painting is in the style of a tondo, or round frame, which was widely associated with household ideals throughout the Renaissance. The Doni Tondo, also known as The Holy Family, is Michelangelo’s only completed panel painting.

The Drunkenness of Noah (1511)

This is a painting of Noah tilling the earth to produce vines in the backdrop, dressed in red. Later, in the foreground, Noah is exposed next to a vat after consuming too much wine, the product of his labors, and is sleeping intoxicated. This represents a point of time when humanity was flawed when people were not always as virtuous as they may have strived to be, but still capable of transitioning from a flawed physical existence to a spiritual existence. 

The Prophet Jeremiah (1511)

This is a painting of Jeremiah the Prophet in a moment of deep contemplation, expressing emotions of loss and sadness following Jerusalem’s destruction. It’s an extremely heartbreaking painting that shows the prophet’s struggle with grief until his death. This was painted to represent the Book of Lamentations, and beside him we see women crying for their beloved Jerusalem.

The Crucifixion of St. Peter (1546–1550)

This is a painting depicting St. Peter being lifted to the crucifixion by Roman soldiers. Michelangelo focused his efforts on depicting pain and sorrow. It’s Michelangelo’s final fresco painting. According to tradition, St. Peter was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the same way as Jesus Christ.

The Entombment (1500-1501)

Like many of the famous paintings by Michelangelo, he again here depicts a biblical scene. This is a painting of Mary, St. James, and Simon of Cyrene carrying the body of Jesus Christ up the steps to the garden tomb where he would be laid to rest. It is a terrific example of Michelangelo’s painting process. He first drew a sketch, then painted the various elements and colors one by one. According to a Farnese inventory, Michelangelo’s painting is unfinished.

The Conversion of Saul (1542-1545)

This is a painting depicting Saul’s conversion to Christianity while traveling to Damascus. The painting style is more Mannerism than most of Michelangelo’s prior works. It represents a shift in his unique style as well as his use of color. The fresco depicts Michelangelo at the top of his skills, coming up with new techniques. 

Leda and the Swan (1530)

Unlike many of the famous paintings by Michelangelo, this is a mythological scheme rather than one from history or the bible. This is a painting of Leda, Queen of Sparta, with Jupiter, who is depicted as a swan.

The story first appeared in Greco-Roman art and antiquities, then reappeared as a recurring subject in erotic art throughout the Renaissance.

The painting is one of the Royal Academy’s oldest and biggest works, but the major attraction is that it’s a reproduction of a long-lost Michelangelo masterpiece.

Doni Tondo (1503-1506)

This is a painting of the Christian Holy Family (the child Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph) in the foreground, with John the Baptist in the background, and five ambiguous naked male characters. The painting is in the style of a tondo, or round frame, which was widely associated with household ideals throughout the Renaissance. The Doni Tondo, also known as The Holy Family, is Michelangelo’s only completed panel painting.

Madonna and Child with St John and Angels (1497)

This is a painting of the young Jesus, his mother Mary, and his cousin, Saint John the Baptist, on the family’s return from Egypt. The Madonna and Child with St John and Angels, also known as The Manchester Madonna, is an incomplete panel painting. It is one of three surviving panel paintings credited to Michelangelo.

What famous paintings by Michelangelo do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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