Prometheus Animating Man, ca. 1524–27
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1909
The subject of the present drawing was likely inspired by a passage in Boccaccio's Genealogia deorum gentilium (On the Genealogy of the Gods of the Gentiles), which draws a parallel between Prometheus and God. Set against a dramatic sky, Prometheus opens his arms in an all-embracing gesture to reach the sun's chariot and obtain the spark that will enliven the clay man who sits in front of him, modeled in his image. The gesture recalls that of the figure of God in Michelangelo's Creation of Man on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Popular during the Renaissance, the ancient Greek myth of Prometheus visualizes the intense belief in the near-godlike abilities of man.