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One of the most recognisable images of western culture is Michelangelo's portrayal of God's hand reaching out to Adam's. That image of two fingers almost touching in the cracked fresco has dominated our Western imaginations for almost five hundred years. The way we see and recall images effects us at a fundament level of our consciousness. The visual language used in the representation of those two hands has permeated more thoroughly than any verbal language, our collective imaginations and thinking about the nature of God and human kind.

Looking at and reflecting on pictures is both simple and complex. It is simple, in that looking engages the viewer in recognition. Recognition relies on the visual memory bank, which in turn helps in construction and attentiveness to what is seen. Looking is also complex, because visual experience also involves the viewer in essentially the non-verbal language of perception. Visual processes have their own connections to minds and emotions and are independent of verbal language. Words then are secondary to the experience of seeing and involve an act of translation. Thus, a hermeneutic or act of interpretation of what is seen inevitably involves the viewer in an act of translation. The viewer often seems trapped in a tension between the intuitive language of perception and the use of verbal language to explain and interpret what is seen.

This reflection engages the viewer to look at the Hands of God in the art of Michelangelo with new eyes and new words. Familiar images can sometimes be seen in novel ways when images that have been over-looked are brought into focus. The hand of God in the Creation of Adam is one of twelve hands of God in the Sistine Chapel and this reflection seeks to engage viewers in looking and reflecting at the other eleven hands of God.

Thus, this reflection encourages the reader to engage with the twelve hands of God in Michelangelo's pictures accompanied by bible texts and reflections. Prayers from the two thousand year history of the Christian Church are used to help the reader respond to the images. As well, the images and texts are presented in the light of Michelangelo's own story.


School of Arts

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Religion Commons