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The Creation of Adam

Drawing of god, radiating light, reaching down from clouds, touching male figure.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Drawing of god, radiating light, reaching down from clouds, touching male figure.


c. 1645/50


Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Italian, 1609-1664

About this artwork

Considered one of the most original and innovative Italian artists of the Baroque period, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione literally separated light from darkness, creating form out of chaos in this work, his earliest known monotype. In a perfect match of medium and message, Castiglione, the Genoese artist credited with inventing the technique, used this new method to portray the central act of Genesis: the creation of man. He produced this electrifying image by subtracting the design from the inked surface of a copperplate with a blunt instrument, such as a stick or paintbrush handle, and then printing directly on a sheet of paper. Broad, angular strokes of white depict God emerging from a cloud, while thin, fluid lines extract the languid body of Adam from velvety blackness. Castiglione’s monotypes employ both this dark-ground technique, which naturally lends itself to dramatic and mysterious imagery, and the light-ground manner, in which the design is drawn in ink directly on a clean plate. Both processes yield only one fine impression. It was not until the nineteenth century that such versatile artists as Edgar Degas explored the monotype’s full potential.


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Prints and Drawings


Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione


The Creation of Adam


Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Monotype in black ink on ivory laid paper


30.3 × 20.3 cm (11 15/16 × 8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of an anonymous donor; purchased with funds provided by Dr. William D. and Sara R. Shorey, and Mr. and Mrs. George B. Young

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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