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Med Hypotheses. 2012 Jun;78(6):757-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2012.02.024. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Michelangelo's eye disease.

Author information

1
State University "G. d'Annunzio", Department of Surgical Science Section Ophtalmology, via dei Vestini, 66100 Chieti, Italy.

Abstract

Charged by the Pope Julius II for painting the Cappella Sistina in Rome (between 1508 and 1512), Michelangelo worked in an elevated scaffolding, in an anomalous position with dyes (including poisoning lead salts) and solvents (such as toxic turpentine) dripping on his face and continuously inhaling, in a dim environment illuminated only with oil lamps and candles, as he described himself and sketched in a sonet addressed to Giovanni da Pistoia. In 1510 he began suffering from eye disease: the main symptom was the necessity to elevate the document he was reading up to the level of his eyes. This defect disappeared few months after he finished painting his masterpiece. We hypothesize that the Michelangelo's eyes disease was a form of acquired and transitory nystagmus induced by the many hours he spent in up gaze, with a skew deviation, a form of ocular tilt reaction resulting from the impairment of spatial sensitivity (inversion illusion) due to the persistence of the artist's head in a horizontal position, looking upward.

PMID:
22425178
DOI:
10.1016/j.mehy.2012.02.024
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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