Gerard’s Transfiguration of Christ
Gerrard David’s “Transfiguration of Christ” compared with a coronal section of the human brain.

An interesting article published by four UK scientists in the neurosciences speculates that the masters of the Renaissance hid brain imagery in their religious masterpieces. Some of the sneaky artists in question include Raphael, Michelangelo, and Gerard David.

During the Renaissance, scholars began to rely more on empirical evidence, especially in the anatomical sciences. The teachings of Galen, which were often based on studies of animals rather than humans, dominated for centuries. It wasn’t until Da Vinci and Vesalius came along that anatomy was jump-started once again. Artists were especially fascinated, but with most of their commissions coming from the religious clergy, how could they show off their deeper knowledge of the human body without being sacreligious? They had to hide it in their artwork.

FL Mershberger was the first to suggest hidden brain anatomy in Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” He noted that the cloth and figures behind God resembled the shape of an anatomically correct brain.

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam”

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” with brain cross section

Looks pretty darn close. Meshberger’s interpretation is that “God, in the process of creating Adam, gives him the gift of ‘intellect,’ symbolized by the brain.”

Here’s Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ.”

Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ”

Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ” with brain

So were these master artists of the Renaissance trying to hide images of anatomically correct brains in their religious work? Why would they do it? Were they trying to put science into religion without getting caught? Or is this just one big coincidence? Maybe the four scientists that wrote the article need to take a break from the neurosciences.

What do you think?

Original articles:

Brain illustrations by Patrick Lynch

Via Mindhacks