CLOSE
"Dying Slave," Michelangelo // Jörg Bittner Unna, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
"Dying Slave," Michelangelo // Jörg Bittner Unna, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Michelangelo Likely Had Arthritis, Researchers Say

"Dying Slave," Michelangelo // Jörg Bittner Unna, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons
"Dying Slave," Michelangelo // Jörg Bittner Unna, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Michelangelo's years of sculpting resulted in many incredible works that are still treasured some 500 years later. They also really took a toll on his hands, according to a recently published paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Researchers analyzed portraits of Michelangelo, as well as writings from the artist about the pain he endured late in life. They concluded that while he may have suffered from a host of other illnesses and conditions (including gout and lead poisoning), it is likely that osteoarthritis is what affected the artist's hands.

In explaining their methodology, the authors of the study write that "there are no spectroscopic or X-ray images available, and for this reason, the careful observation of the portraits is the only method available today to interpret hand deformities." There were three oil paintings of the artist—between the ages of 60 and 65—used in the analysis: the first two were painted during his lifetime by Jacopino del Conte and Daniele da Volterra (circa 1535 and 1544, respectively), while the third by Pompeo Caccini was completed in 1595—36 years after Michelangelo's death.

Portrait by Jacopino del Conte // Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

From their study of Michelangelo's left (dominant) hand in each of the paintings, the team writes:

"The portraits show Michelangelo’s hand to be affected by degenerative arthritis, in particular at the trapezius/metacarpal joint level, as well as at the metacarpo/phalangeal joint level, the interphalangeal joint of the thumb, the metacarpo/phalangeal joint and the proximal interphalangeal joint of the index finger levels. These are clear non-inflammatory degenerative changes, which were probably accelerated by prolonged hammering and chiseling... Michelangelo’s difficulties with tasks such as writing may have resulted from stiffness of the thumb and the loss of the ability to abduct, flex and adduct it."

Letters indicate that Michelangelo's symptoms arrived late in life, and in 1552 correspondence with his nephew, he wrote that writing itself caused discomfort. By the time of his death, he could no longer write and only signed his letters.

But even then, Michelangelo continued making art—he was seen hammering up to six days before his death—and that might have actually helped him. Lead author Davide Lazzeri said in a statement: "The diagnosis of osteoarthritis offers one plausible explanation for Michelangelo's loss of dexterity in old age and emphasizes his triumph over infirmity as he persisted in his work until his last days. Indeed the continuous and intense work could have helped Michelangelo to keep the use of his hands for as long as possible."

[h/t Artnet]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Art
The Getty Center, Surrounded By Wildfires, Will Leave Its Art Where It Is
iStock
iStock

The wildfires sweeping through California have left countless homeowners and businesses scrambling as the blazes continue to grow out of control in various locations throughout the state. While art lovers worried when they heard that Los Angeles's Getty Center would be closing its doors this week, as the fires closed part of the 405 Freeway, there was a bit of good news. According to museum officials, the priceless works housed inside the famed Getty Center are said to be perfectly secure and won't need to be evacuated from the facility.

“The safest place for the art is right here at the Getty,” Ron Hartwig, the Getty’s vice president of communications, told the Los Angeles Times. According to its website, the museum was closed on December 5 and December 6 “to protect the collections from smoke from fires in the region,” but as of now, the art inside is staying put.

Though every museum has its own way of protecting the priceless works inside it, the Los Angeles Times notes that the Getty Center was constructed in such a way as to protect its contents from the very kind of emergency it's currently facing. The air throughout the gallery is filtered by a system that forces it out, rather than a filtration method which would bring air in. This system will keep the smoke and air pollutants from getting into the facility, and by closing the museum this week, the Getty is preventing the harmful air from entering the building through any open doors.

There is also a water tank at the facility that holds 1 million gallons in reserve for just such an occasion, and any brush on the property is routinely cleared away to prevent the likelihood of a fire spreading. The Getty Villa, a separate campus located in the Pacific Palisades off the Pacific Coast Highway, was also closed out of concern for air quality this week.

The museum is currently working with the police and fire departments in the area to determine the need for future closures and the evacuation of any personnel. So far, the fires have claimed more than 83,000 acres of land, leading to the evacuation of thousands of people and the temporary closure of I-405, which runs right alongside the Getty near Los Angeles’s Bel-Air neighborhood.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Art
This 77-Year-Old Artist Saves Money on Art Supplies by 'Painting' in Microsoft Excel
iStock
iStock

It takes a lot of creativity to turn a blank canvas into an inspired work of art. Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi makes his pictures out of something that’s even more dull than a white page: an empty spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel.

When he retired, the 77-year-old Horiuchi, whose work was recently spotlighted by Great Big Story, decided he wanted to get into art. At the time, he was hesitant to spend money on painting supplies or even computer software, though, so he began experimenting with one of the programs that was already at his disposal.

Horiuchi's unique “painting” method shows that in the right hands, Excel’s graph-building features can be used to bring colorful landscapes to life. The tranquil ponds, dense forests, and blossoming flowers in his art are made by drawing shapes with the software's line tool, then adding shading with the bucket tool.

Since picking up the hobby in the 2000s, Horiuchi has been awarded multiple prizes for his creative work with Excel. Let that be inspiration for Microsoft loyalists who are still broken up about the death of Paint.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the artist's process in the video below.

[h/t Great Big Story]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios