Hidden images in Sistine Chapel ceiling?
Professors see brain stems in the neck of God.
Wed, Jun 23, 2010 at 10:40 AM
The Sistine Chapel ceiling has been a "Where's Waldo" of sorts for analysts to find hidden themes and images in Michelangelo's work. According to the NY Times, two Johns Hopkins professors now believe they have found an anatomical drawing in the neck of God.
The Times reports that Michelangelo was an avid student of human anatomy, but that only a few of his anatomical drawings have survived. The Johns Hopkins professors believe they have found a drawing of a human brain stem on the throat of God. According to the article, this would not be the first body part spied in a fresco. The Times references a 1990 study describing a human brain found in "the Creation of Adam," and another article from 2000 that suggests a kidney appears in another panel.
The story reports that the alleged brain stem appears in the panel "The Separation of Light From Darkness," in which God seems to be rising into the sky, arms raised above his head, which is turned to the right. There, in his neck, Ian Suk and Dr. Rafael J. Tamargo say they see a concealed image of the brain and brain stem. Suk (a medical illustrator) and Tamargo (a neurosurgeon) say God's neck is distinct from other drawings in the ceiling. The story says that usually, the necks look smooth but that in this fresco, "There are lines and shapes quite different from the normal external anatomy of the neck.” This particular scene also works differently with light.
According to the Times, the professors say that for these details to be coincidence would mean "that Michelangelo had a very bad day, which is very unlikely because he was very meticulous." Art historians have mixed feelings about the discovery. The article cites Gail L. Geiger of the University of Wisconsin, who is convinced by the well-researched theory; the article also mentioned Joanna Woods-Marsden of the University of California, Los Angeles, who is outraged by the idea.
The Times ends by citing an art scholar from the Pennsylvania State University, who says, "I don't want to discourage people from looking. But sometimes a neck is just a neck."