Without any kind of secret messages, the works of Michaelangelo are masterful. But some researchers have indicated that Michaelangelo may have “built into” his Sistine Chapel paintings some signs that point to a level of cleverness that took hundreds of years to unveil.
Consider this article and his work called “Separation of Light from Darkness” (at right):
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 artistic 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 have been found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and countless religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries—inside 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 journalNeurosurgery. Suk and Tamargo are experts in neuroanatomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1990, physician Frank Meshberger published a paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association deciphering Michelangelo’s imagery with the stunning recognition that the depiction in God Creating Adamin the central panel on the ceiling was a perfect anatomical illustration of the human brain in cross section. 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 also with supreme human intelligence. Now in another panel The Separation of Light from Darkness (shown at left), Suk and Tamargo have found more. Leading up the center of God’s chest and forming his throat, the researchers have found a precise depiction of the human spinal cord and brain stem.
Is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel a 500 year-old puzzle that is only now beginning to be solved? What was Michelangelo saying by construction the voice box of God out of the brain stem of man? Is it a sacrilege or homage?
And then there’s the “The Creation of Adam,” which, if it were interpreted another way, it should have been titled, “The Creation of God:”
We know that Michaelangelo worked with cadavers during one period of his life, so he would have known how the human brain was shaped. The Pope and his religious cohorts most likely would have not, and thus would not have been able to see through the subtle clues in Michaelangel’s work. Here, we see God and the angels almost entirely encapsulated inside a mysterious red shroud or cloak. Given the symbolism of Christianity (the blood of Christ, the moon turning red, etc.), the Pope would have probably agreed with the inclusion of so much red in the right half of the painting. But to modern eyes, it looks like a clean cross-section of a human brain in perfect shape along the exterior. If Michaelangelo wanted to capture God inside an object, why not a blue cloud or some kind of yellow shape to represent the sun (son)? The strength of the piece comes not from the depiction of Adam or God and the angels, but what takes place in the middle: God and man’s fingers nearly touching and the no-man’s land in between that keeps the divine and mortal man worlds apart, so the red blob to the right could simply be extraneous. Presumably God and the angels would certainly be capable of just floating on air without needing to be enshrouded in anything. Michaelangelo, the master that he was, probably would have realized this.
Of course, we don’t know Michaelangelo’s real intentions, but the fact that God and the angels are depicted inside this red portion of the painting, a likeness of the human brain, seems like more than just a coincidence, given what we know about Michaelangelo’s interest in science and his documented disagreements with the Vatican. In this view, the painting takes on this meaning: God and the angels are a whole cloth creation stemming from and encapsulated in the mind of man. If this, indeed, is what Michaelangelo hoped to convey inside the Sistine Chapel — he would have probably been killed for it in his day — we can record him not only as a masterful painter but as a philosopher far ahead of his time.