Jonah, by Michelangelo

This agitated youth, so expanded as to overflow his throne, is placed above the altar - the first figure in the entire Ceiling to strike the eye of an observer entering the Chapel. Jonah, alone among the twelve prophets and sibyls, looks upward, as if he could see, beyond the painted marble frame, the Separation of Lightfrom Darkness.

Our own point of view shifts, and with Jonah we look upward at the first day of Genesis, directly into heaven as through a skylight; we, like Jonah, see the Creator from below, moving beyond the frame, in the same direction as the ribs of the vault, not only separating the light from the darkness but upholding like Atlas the weight of the heavens. As one would expect, the light is on the side of the altar (the Second Person of the Trinity is always identified with light: "In Him was life and the life was the light of men"); the darkness, on the side toward the beginning of the Ceiling. The mystic identification of Christ with the first light is proposed by Cardinal Vigerio, in a majestic dialogue across the millennia between Moses and John, the first chapter of Genesis that Michelangelo is ostensibly illustrating and the first chapter of John, read at the end of every Mass.