Friday, May 28, 2010

God's Goiter is Michelangelo's Brain

Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were distinguished by their detailed understanding of anatomy; knowledge declared heretical by the Roman Catholic Church and therefore something that necessarily had to be acquired as a clandestine activity. Michelangelo even destroyed most of his anatomical sketches and notes. But not entirely. It seems that he hid some of them in plain sight of the Pope—on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Looking up and under at God's goiterous throat

Art historians have long been puzzled by certain subpar anatomical irregularities in Michelangelo’s work, e.g., the panel depicting The Separation of Light from Darkness shows a goiterous formation in God’s neck. Twenty years ago, it was suggested that the region belonging to God Creating Adam, in a central panel of the ceiling, was actually the human brain in cross section. Now, a paper in the May issue of Neurosurgery, identifies the "irregularity" in the Separation panel as an anatomically accurate depiction of the human brain, viz., spinal cord, brain stem, eyes and optic nerves.