The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512 It is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art.
Michelangelo, who was not primarily a painter but a sculptor, was reluctant to take on the work. He was also occupied with a very large sculptural commission for the pope’s tomb. Pope Julius was adamant, leaving Michelangelo no choice but to accept.However, a war with the French broke out, diverting the attention of the pope, and Michelangelo fled from Rome to continue sculpting. In 1508 the pope returned to Rome victorious and summoned Michelangelo to begin work on the ceiling. The contract was signed on 10 May 1508.
The scheme proposed by the pope was for twelve large figures of the Apostles to occupy the pendentives. However, Michelangelo negotiated for a grander, much more complex scheme and was finally permitted, in his own words, “to do as I liked”. His scheme for the ceiling eventually comprised some three hundred figures and took four years to execute, being completed and shown to the public on All Saints Day in 1512