Did Michelangelo Hide a Brain Drawing in a Sistine Chapel Fresco?

By Joseph Calamia | June 22, 2010 1:57 pm

What do you see in this detail from the Sistine Chapel frescos?


We’ll give you a hint: Look at God’s neck.

Still can’t see it? Take a look in a May issue of the journal Neurosurgery. What do a medical illustrator and a neurosurgeon see when they look at a Michelangelo masterpiece?

We propose that in the Separation of Light From Darkness, Michelangelo drew into God’s neck a ventral view of the brainstem as well as the perisellar and chiasmatic regions.

neck-brainThough finding this hidden drawing seems to take a lot of squinting and genuine imagination, the article’s authors claim that their beliefs have historical and artistic groundings. For one, Michelangelo was a master at dissecting cadavers, a hobby he started at age 17, the authors told NPR. They also point to the lighting, God’s trimmed beard, and the fact that, as a neck, it isn’t anatomically correct. For a brainstem, the authors think, it’s just right.

Some art historians aren’t convinced. Brian A. Curran, an associate professor of art history at Pennsylvania State University told The New York Times:

“I think this may be another case of the authors looking too hard for something they want to find. . . I don’t want to discourage people from looking. But sometimes a neck is just a neck.”

Related content:
Discoblog: Astronomers Identify the Mystery Meteor That Inspired Walt Whitman
Discoblog: Super-Size Me, Jesus: Last Suppers in Paintings Have Gotten Bigger
Discoblog: Artistically Challenged Man Becomes “Michelangelo” After Brain Surgery
Bad Astronomy: A vast, cosmic cloudy brain looms in a nearby galaxy
DISCOVER: Visual Science The Achilles Heel on Michelangelo’s David: His Shin

Images: Wikimedia, Ian Suk and Rafael Tamargo / Neurosurgery

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

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