The Sistine Chapel
ceiling, painted by Michelangelo, is well-regarded as a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Biblical Book of Genesis. Some 25,000 people a day, or five million people a year, visit the chapel.
Over the past few years different researchers and historians have shown how Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel contains numerous codes and hidden messages that tantalize art historians, scientists and the general public. Of most interest is in understanding why the codes have been inserted and what the real purposes are.
For example, a few years ago researchers, using imaging equipment, discovered that the depiction in ‘God Creating Adam’ in the central panel on the ceiling was a perfect anatomical illustration
of the human brain in cross section.
, in the painting ‘The Separation of Light from Darkness’ in the center of God’s chest contains an anatomically precise depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem.
Adding to the run of mysteries
, new analysis suggests that Michelangelo may have concealed symbols associated with female anatomy when painting the chapel's ceiling. This is based on research published in
the journal Clinical Anatomy
(“The hidden symbols of the female anatomy in Michelangelo Buonarroti's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.”)
In a general sense, the new analysis is useful for understanding the historical relationship between art and anatomy, according to Dr. Deivis de Campos, author of the article.
Specifically, Dr. Deivis de Campos argues that the painter Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) deliberately concealed symbols associated with female anatomy in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (painted 1508–1512) in Rome. This concealment is part of a trend found in many other aspects of Renaissance art, where other works contain probable meanings and symbols, from the “faces selected for the characters, colors used, species of flowers and trees chosen, animals depicted, positions of the elements, posture of the characters and their gestures, juxtapositions in the scenes and even the very scenario or landscape.”
Michelangelo was a skilled anatomical drawer as well as skilled painter. Exactly why he chose the Sistine Chapel to conceal such accurate depictions of the human body (so precise they could only be observed from watching autopsies) is uncertain. Had these pictorial flourishes been known at the time, the insertions would have been disallowed or be seen as sacrilegious. The discovery of female anatomy only adds to the mystery.