Did Michelangelo Include a Brain Stem in the Sistine Chapel?

Jun 22, 2010 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Image source: Wikipedia.org

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown has yet to write a book on the hidden pictures in Michelangelo's artwork, but maybe he can start working on a thriller that takes Robert Langdon on a journey through the Renaissance master's alleged diagrams of human anatomy. Hidden in plain sight, in Sistine Chapel frescoes, assert some medical personnel, are pictures of human anatomy. The latest assertion appears in the journal Neurosurgery, where Ian Suk and Dr. Rafael J. Tamargo claim that Michelangelo included a rendering of the human brain stem in the fresco titled "The Separation of Light from Darkness".

The New York Times reports on one of the reasons that Tamargo thinks that the resemblance was intentional:

To Dr. Tamargo’s eye, God’s neck in the fresco is distinctly different from those of other figures depicted in more or less the same posture. Usually, the neck looks smooth, but in “The Separation of Light From Darkness” there are lines and shapes quite different from the normal external anatomy of the neck, irregularities that he believes cannot be accidental. “The anatomy of the neck is very, very unusual,” he said, and if it were not intentionally drawn that way, “you would have to postulate that Michelangelo had a very bad day, which is very unlikely because he was very meticulous.”

Digital “shadow analysis.” A, close-up of God's neck (gray scale, increased contrast) is compared with a photograph of a plastic brain model (SOMSO-plast Brain model BS20, 2001) in similar oblique, ventral views. Inset shows original color photo for context. B, shadow areas are transcribed in red using a digital paintbrush in Adobe Photoshop (CS2, 2005). Image credit: Neurosurgery: doi: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000368101.34523.E1

Some are skeptical, though. For years physicians and others have been looking for evidence that Michelangelo, well known for his interest in the human form and his forays into corpse dissection, included clues to his scientific interest in his art. Some claim that different frescoes in the Sistine Chapel feature a kidney and the outline of the human . Skeptics think that doctors and others may be looking too hard to find something that may not be there. The New York Times article continues:

...Joanna Woods-Marsden, a professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles, was outraged as much by the authors’ hypothesis as by their audacity in presenting it. “My initial reaction on looking at the illustrations is that this is complete nonsense, to put it politely,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “To draw arbitrary lines all over Renaissance paintings and expect to be taken seriously by the scholarly community!”

We have few of Michelangelo's anatomical drawings today. Perhaps it isn't very surprising that scientists, professors and physicians want to find anatomical diagrams in his art. It provides evidence that truly was a well-rounded Renaissance man, interested in science as well as being an artistic luminary.

Explore further: Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

More information: Concealed Neuroanatomy in Michelangelo's Separation of Light From Darkness in the Sistine Chapel, Neurosurgery: May 2010 - Volume 66 - Issue 5 - p 851-861. doi: 10.1227/01.NEU.0000368101.34523.E1

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User comments : 9

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gmurphy
4.6 / 5 (9) Jun 22, 2010
this is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, why don't they just go looking for the face of Jesus on slices of toast?
trekgeek1
Jun 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
yyz
5 / 5 (4) Jun 22, 2010
gmurphy has it; this is a case of pareidolia: http://en.wikiped...reidolia
ealex
5 / 5 (4) Jun 23, 2010
heh seriously, it doesn't even resemble it, someone's been huffing paint fumes for too long a time it seems.

way to throw away research time and money there.
justus
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 23, 2010
You have got to be effing kidding me.
Dino
not rated yet Jun 23, 2010
(posted to pikk) Believe or Doubt? Michelangelo Painted a brain stem in the image of God [POLL] - http://www.pikk.com/39138
DanielKnight
1 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2010
this is really scraping the bottom of the barrel, why don't they just go looking for the face of Jesus on slices of toast?
Hey, evolutionists are hypocrites, and the atheist ones are just like Catholics... it's why they get along so well, or at least love to team up against Calvinists: they're like brothers when it comes to fighting Calvinists.

http://hypocrites.tk
alanborky
3 / 5 (2) Jun 25, 2010
Sorry guys, but clearly most doubters of this theory're not artists.

As a painter myself I can assure you many thinking painters're deeply aware every 'macro' image is made up of an endlessly diminishing sequence of 'micro' images - which only multiply when viewed from different angles - and it'd be almost impossible for an artist with Michelangelo's mystical-scientific background NOT to slip in examples of his 'learning' for 'those with eyes to see'.

Remember, Michelangelo himself said of the David, that he didn't create it - his was merely the honour to uncover it from the matrix where its true creator, God'd left it.

He'd've viewed portraying the brain for his fellow officially 'disapproved' of secret anatomists in exactly the same light.
DrSmallberries
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
it's a jawbone with a faded beard. give the "coding" a rest.
otto1923
not rated yet Jun 25, 2010
Theres a little more to this:

"There is something else odd about this picture. A roll of fabric extends up the center of God's robe in a peculiar manner. The clothing is bunched up here as is seen nowhere else, and the fold clashes with what would be the natural drape of fabric over God's torso. In fact, they observe, 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 peculiar crumpled manner, revealing the optic nerves from two eyes, precisely as Leonardo Da Vinci had shown them in his illustration of 1487. Da Vinci and Michelangelo were contemporaries and acquainted with each other's work." Huffington post

-These guys did exhibit a tendency toward double-entendre and hidden meanings, if nothing else than to liven up what must have been at times a grueling and exceedingly tedious effort.