Michelangelo's Subversion


The genius who painted the Sistine chapel - and they ask me how I can be gay and Catholic?! - may have been up to even more mischief than we imagined. From his teenage years, he had been a secret corpse dissecter and sketcher, fascinated by the human body. And a new study suggests he put this knowledge to innovative use:

Ian Suk and Rafael 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 Adam in 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, 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.

What was Michelangelo implying? That we are made in the image of God or that God is made in the image of us? Or that there is some deep connection between our highest levels of consciousness and the divine?

(Hat tip: 3QD.)