Michelangelo Hid Images in Sistine Chapel Paintings

May 28, 2010 at 5:00 am 6 comments

The most amazing work of art I’ve ever seen is David by Michelangelo. At 17 feet tall, bulging veins and muscles render an immaculate representation of human anatomy and the flaccid pose captures the mood before his fight with Goliath.

There is no doubt, Michelangelo’s understanding of anatomy is incredible, but not surprising. His art education included dissecting cadavers while studying at the church of Santo Spirito. This is not a well known fact since he tried to hide his anatomist roots, destroying nearly all of his anatomic notes and drawings.

Maybe cadavers are harder to come by these days, but that’s not part of the art curriculum at most modern schools. That privilege is usually reserved for medical students, which is why it’s no surprise that three medical journals have published findings of hidden anatomic references in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings.

It took four years (1508-1512) for Michelangelo to paint the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The last four panels he painted include the suggested anatomic representations.

In the forth panel, Dr Frank Meshberger suggests the similarity between the red cloth surrounding god and the image of a human brain (Journal of the American Medical Association, October 1990).

The brain-like shape is highlighted

In the third panel, Dr Garabed Eknoyan likens the wrap surrounding god to a human kidney, as reported in Kidney International in 2000. According to Eknoyan, Michelangelo was interested in the kidney function since he suffered from kidney stones during his adult life and mentioned it in letters and poems.

Do you see a Kidney shape?

Finally, in the first panel (image below), Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, report in the journal Neurosurgery (May 2010) that the neck details do not accurately represent a goiter, as previously believed. They argue that goiters typically occur lower in the neck and Michelangelo would not have made such an inaccurate representation given his demonstrated accuracy of anatomic details in all of his other paintings. Secondly, they believed as a deeply religious man, he would not depict god with this deformity. Most convincingly, they say the painting accurately details a ventral view (from below) of a brainstem, cerebellum, temporal lobes and optic chiasm.

They also suggest that God’s chest includes an anterior view of a spinal cord, which appears attached to the brainstem and a representation of optic nerves and globes around God’s legs and abdomen.

Arrows indicate the brainstem, spinal cord, optic nerves and globes

So, the 1st, 3rd and 4th panels are believed to include anatomic references. The cases are pretty convincing, so I wanted to study the 2nd panel for more hidden anatomy. Surely, Michelangelo wouldn’t skip the second panel, right? I came up with a few loose interpretations, butt I’ll let you judge for yourself:

Broken Secrets | By: Chad Upton

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Sources: Scientific American, Neurosurgery, Wikipedia, WP (Michelangelo)

Photos: Wikipedia, Sistine Chapel 3D Panoramic View

Entry filed under: Demystified. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. AnnieJ  |  May 30, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Wow, now THAT is awesome! I had no idea!

  • 2. bpulimood  |  June 5, 2010 at 3:08 am

    thank you for posting this to us.was not able to appreciate all the hidden images


  • 3. Vulpis  |  July 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Gives a whole new meaning to ‘hidden mickeys’ (or ‘michies’ in this case?)..

  • 4. efetov  |  October 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I spent several months in Rome, frequently visiting Vatican, and discovered that Michelangelo has encoded the external surface of human brain, as well as human genitals in the Sistine Chapel frescoes. You can find the details in my blog A shocking secret of the Sistine Chapel
    Please let me know your thoughts on this.

  • 5. zoop55  |  March 7, 2011 at 4:53 am

    Recently i noticed that in panel four the image of god and the angels with the red cloth resembled the brain. I’m glad there are others that share this view, and i had no idea about the other panels. Id say the depiction of god in the second panel could resemble the female reproductive system.

  • 6. Garner  |  November 1, 2012 at 9:26 am

    There are many secrets in Mona Lisa painting, but there are also many paintings which has hidden secret codes in them. Albrecht Durer is one of the German artists whose paintings has many secrets..


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