At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti—known by his first name the world over as the singular inventive genius, sculptor and architect—was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes. Now, 500 years after he drew them, his hidden anatomical illustrations were found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and numerous religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries—within the body of God. This is the conclusion of Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo, in their paper in the May 2010 issue of the scientific journal Neurosurgery.
Suk and Tamargo are specialists in neuroanatomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1990, physician Frank Meshberger posted a mag in the Journal of the American Medical Association deciphering Michelangelo’s imagery with the brilliant awareness that the depiction in God Creating Adam in the critical panel on the ceiling was a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross phase. Meshberger speculates that Michelangelo surrounded God with a shroud representing the human brain to suggest that God was endowing Adam not only with life, but additionally with preferrred human intelligence. Now in another panel The Separation of Light from Darkness shown at left, Suk and Tamargo have found more. Leading up the middle of God’s chest and forming his throat, the researchers have found a accurate depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem. Art critics and historians have long confused over the odd anatomical irregularities in Michelangelo’s depiction of God’s neck during this panel, and by the discordant lighting in the region.
The figures in the fresco are illuminated diagonally from the lower left, but God’s neck, highlighted as if in a focus, is illuminated instantly on and slightly from the proper. How does one reconcile such clumsiness by the world’s master of human anatomy and experienced portrayer of sunshine with bungling clone of God above the altar?Suk and Tamargo suggest that the hideous goiter disfigured neck of God is not a mistake, but rather a hidden message. They argue that nowhere else in any of any other figures did Michelangelo foul up his anatomically accurate rendering of the human neck. They show that if one superimposes a detail of God’s odd lumpy neck in the Separation of Light and Darkness on a photograph of the human brain as seen from below, the lines of God’s neck trace accurately the aspects of the human brain . There is anything else odd about this image.
A role of cloth extends up the center of God’s robe in a weird manner. The clothing is bunched up here as is seen nowhere else, and the fold clashes with what often is the herbal drape of fabric over God’s torso. In fact, they check, it is the human spinal cord, ascending to the brain stem in God’s neck. At God’s waist, the robe twists again in a unusual crumpled manner, revealing the optic nerves from two eyes, accurately as Leonardo Da Vinci had shown them in his example of 1487. Da Vinci and Michelangelo were contemporaries and accustomed to each other’s work. If the hidden figures are intentional, what do they mean?The authors resist hypothesis, but a great artist does not merely reproduce an object in a work of art, he or she evokes which means via symbolism.
Is Separation of Light from Darkness a creative comment on the iconic clash among science and faith?Recall that this was the age when the monk Copernicus was denounced by the Church for theorizing that the Earth revolved across the sun. It was a period of struggle among scientific commentary and the authority of the Church, and a time of excessive conflict among Protestants and Catholics. Michelangelo was a devout person, but later in life he developed a belief in Spiritualism, for which he was condemned by Pope Paul IV. The basic tenet of Spiritualism is that the path to God can be found not exclusively throughout the Church, but through direct communique with God. Pope Paul IV interpreted Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, painted on the wall of the Sistine Chapel 20 years after finishing the ceiling, as defaming the church by suggesting that Jesus and those around him communicated with God directly with out need of Church. He suspended Michelangelo’s pension and had fig leaves painted over the nudes in the fresco.
According to the artist’s wishes, Michelangelo’s body is not buried on the grounds of the Vatican, but is in its place interred in a tomb in Florence.