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The brain on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

  1. May 26, 2005 #1

    Math Is Hard

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    [​IMG]

    This painting is being used for the cover of my behavioral neuroscience text for the reasons mentioned at this link:
    http://www.thecaveonline.com/APEH/michelangelosbrain.html

    I am sure it is all purely coincidental but it is still fun to look at.
     
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  3. May 26, 2005 #2

    Math Is Hard

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    p.s. I wanted to put this in Skepticism and Debunking but for some reason the [​IMG]
     
  4. May 26, 2005 #3

    JamesU

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    I don't think this is supposed to be a brain.
     
  5. May 26, 2005 #4
    outrage ! :wink:
     

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  6. May 26, 2005 #5

    DocToxyn

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    Upon reading the title and seeing the painting, I can definitely see the "brain" in the image. Of course this is coming from a neuroscientist who also knows that the brain "likes" to make associations between recognizable images and the abstract. But I have seen a lot of brain in my time and that shape is pretty "brainy". We'll have to see what Moonbear thinks, she's a cerebrophile as well.

    I can also agree with the statement in the link which talks about God imparting life upon Adam. He certainly seems alive in the picture, eyes open, upper body propped up on elbow, arm raised. Perhaps this was the moment of "neural enlightenment" as depicted by Michelangelo and imagined by Meshberger, or perhaps simply the moment after life was given. It's provoking...
     
  7. May 26, 2005 #6
    I've been told by a Biologist friend that without a doubt it is a human Brain. It is too exact and Michaelangelo was of course known for dissecting humans; his knowledge of anatomy was second to none in that era.

    It has been suggested by some, that Michaelangelo was having a cruel joke on his paymasters by putting God inside a Human brain - the implication being that that is where God resides.. as a thought of Man only.

    Wow! They don't tell you that at the Vatican!
     
  8. May 26, 2005 #7
    The question is "Did Michaelangelo intend to suggest a brain to the viewer?" It would be very hard to make a case that he did, given the time it was painted. How many Catholics back then had any idea what a human brain looked like? Did Michaelangelo associate the brain with "intelligence"? As I recall, didn't people believe that the organ of thinking was the heart back then?

    It is a "brainy" shape to my eyes as well, but he could easily have arrived at the same shape by throwing down some drapery, randomly to get inspiration for a background for his "creator" image. It is essentially drapery.
     
  9. May 26, 2005 #8
    No, the idea was that he alone, the artist, would know and that no one else would.
    He was (possibly that is, it is only a theory) sticking a finger up at the church.
     
  10. May 26, 2005 #9
    I'm a bit fuzzy on the time scale, but I think the brain was thought to be a 'cooling system' for blood at some point. At what point this was, would of course be of interest, anyone?
     
  11. May 26, 2005 #10
    This theory kind of goes against the picture of Michaelangelo we get from the stories. One story is that he overheard two guys attributing his unsignedPieta to a different sculptor. That night he went in and carved "This statue was sculpted by Michaelangelo Buonarroti," or some such explicit thing, on the sculpture.(Whatever it says is still there to be plainly seen). It doesn't seem he would bother with any such insult (the brain thing) if he, alone, would know it was there.
     
  12. May 26, 2005 #11
    Considering the similarities between the painting and the human brain, and knowing Michelangelo's familiarity with human anatomy, I think it is far more likely that the image is intentionally represented as a human brain. What Michelangleo intended this to mean I am not sure of.
     
  13. May 26, 2005 #12

    JamesU

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    Maybe it means "knowledge"
     
  14. May 26, 2005 #13
    Yes, the brain thing is only potentially possible if we can prove Michaelangelo thought the brain was the seat of intelligence, which might not be the case.
     
  15. May 26, 2005 #14

    JamesU

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    (zooby...zooby! you quoted the wrong thing)
     
  16. May 26, 2005 #15
    http://www.ship.edu/~cgboeree/neurophysio.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_of_Adam
    It has been speculated that the brain is the seat of behavior for millenia. Anatomy was an important part of the Renaissance.
     
  17. May 26, 2005 #16
    Not that I'm aware of.
     
  18. May 26, 2005 #17
    I think that may be a good guess. This would be a controversial meaning. The tree of knowledge was forbidden to Adam and Eve. It is the source of the original sin. Showing God presenting man with knowledge could be interpreted as an attack on the catholic faith. What was Michelangelo's religious background? Are there any other possible meanings?
     
  19. May 26, 2005 #18
    What did Michaelangelo think the brain did? That's what matters. If we can find a quote from him saying he believed the brain was the seat of intelligence, or the organ of thought, then this brain-in-the-painting theory has a chance.
     
  20. May 26, 2005 #19
    Scrap that 'cooling system' thing, according to my neuroscience book the brain was indeed concidered to be responcible for behaviour already at the roman time (thanks to some gladiator physican called Galen). However, by poking the brain with a finger he observed that the cerebrum is soft and the cerebellum had hallows chambers, ventricles. His obvious conclusion was that the soft part received and stored sensory input and the hard, hallow part worked like a hydralik pump, controlling muscles through - what he thought - was hollow neurons. But it was not like all this had anything to do with intelligence, not even descartes thought that and he lived in the 17th century. So, the hydralic notion prevailed through the renesanse, according to this book (bear, connors, paradiso).

    Of course, this doesn't say anything about what Michelangelo did or didn't know at the time.
     
  21. May 26, 2005 #20

    Moonbear

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    It's a sheep brain! :rofl: The shape isn't quite right for a human brain, but it's just about right for a ruminant. Oh, and it even has the pituitary attached! :biggrin: And, in case anyone is uncertain, it appears to be a mid-saggital cut. :rofl:
     
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