top 10 most famous michelangelo paintings

Michelangelo is unarguably one of the greatest artists of all time. He was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet. His first significant works were completed before he turned 30, leading to a long and illustrious career. Even while he was alive, he was recognized as the most notable artist of his generation. He is best known for defining the era of the High Renaissance. From the Sistine Chapel to the statue of David, his portfolio is vast and varied. Discover the most famous Michelangelo paintings and pieces of artwork.  

The Creation of Adam

Undoubtedly the most renowned piece by Michelangelo was his work in the Sistine Chapel. The first four paintings we have chosen to highlight are all from this iconic interior. The first fresco we’ve chosen to highlight is perhaps one of the most iconic images ever created. The Creation of Adam depicts the moment in Genesis when God gives life to the first man. The image of their fingers touching has become a highly recognizable piece. To some scholars, it also appears as if God is inside the human brain.

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michelangelo famous works

Creation of Eve

Although not as famous as the Creation of Adam, the Sistine Chapel also shows the Creation of Eve. Rather than being born from Adam’s body as told in the scripture, Eve appears to emerge from behind a rock. It may be a simpler image, but it is highly emotional. Some scholars view the emphasis of a supernatural element in the pose of God.

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famous michelangelo works

The Brazen Serpent

The Brazen Serpent is another fresco in the Sistine Chapel. It shows a violent scene in which God cursed the Israelites with vicious serpents after they spoke against Moses. This piece uses a technique called “foreshortening,” which showcases a figure or figures using the illusion of elongation or projection in a short space.

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famous artworks of michelangelo

The Great Flood

The Great Flood shows the moment that God condemned all of humankind to death, leaving only Noah and the animals to survive. It depicts people drowning, trying to survive in boats, and huddled together to hide from God’s wrath. You can see the ark in the distance, with Noah dressed in a scarlet robe, pointing to the heavens as a sign of hope.

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michelangelo famous paintings


While David is not a painting, we had to include it on the list because it is by far one of Michelangelo’s most famous pieces. It was the first large, marble statue made after the classical antiquity art period. David was originally supposed to be a part of a twelve-figure set, but it garnered so much attention that it ended up standing on its own. It is still located in Florence, and remains a crowning jewel of Italian art to this day.

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famous works of michelangelo

The Last Judgment

Besides The Creation of Adam, The Last Judgment is the most recognizable piece in the Sistine Chapel. This scene shows Armageddon and the final judgement of humanity. Impressively, it covers the entire altar wall. Originally, all of the male figures were painted nude. Some surmise that this was a backhanded insult to the church. Michelangelo had a strained relationship with Pope Paul III, who led the church when the Sistine Chapel was completed. The piece has several easter eggs that support the theory that he deliberately included elements that would anger him.

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famous paintings by michelangelo


After David, Pieta is Michelangelo’s second most famous sculpture. He completed this piece before the age of 30, and most regard it as the mark of the start of the High Renaissance. It shows the Virgin Mary holding Jesus after he was crucified. While the proportions are anatomically inaccurate, it has clear elements of naturalism. The work itself is a visual paradox. It is also the only piece of work that Michelangelo ever signed.

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most famous michelangelo paintings

The Torment of Saint Anthony

While The Torment of Saint Anthony is attributed to Michelangelo, it is still debated as to whether he is the true painter. It shows Saint Anthony being tempted by monstrous demons. The work was originally credited to Michelangelo’s master, Domenico Ghirlandaio, until 2008 when it was re-examined and determined to be painted by Michelangelo himself.

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famous michelangelo paintings

The Entombment

Not only is the date of this piece heavily debated, but some believe The Entombment to be a piece by one of Michelangelo’s pupils. Michelangelo had been commissioned to paint the funeral chapel at the Sant’Agostino in Rome. Although it was never completed, some historians have concluded that The Entombment was originally supposed to be a part of the commission.

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Manchester Madonna

Manchester Madonna shows the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus meeting his cousin, John the Baptist on a trip to Egypt. While this meeting is not biblically supported, there are many Renaissance paintings that depict this scene. The figures appear almost sculptural,

This is another piece that is considered largely unfinished, but it still remains one of Michelangelo’s most famous paintings.

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michelangelo famous painting

More Famous Michelangelo Works    

From your living room to your office, add a source of timeless artistic inspiration by hanging a print by Michelangelo. His work is truly timeless, offering a classic touch to any interior. Because of the endless symbolism embedded in his paintings, prints of his work make excellent conversation starters. For more fine art and decor inspiration, visit our blog.

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Annette Schmucker