WHERE NOW | ART Secrets Behind the Art B y T i f f a n y Pa r k s O n a typical visit to Rome, the average tourist sees dozens if not hundreds of works of art. But beyond the subject matter, the genius of the artist, the colors and techniques used, and the sheer beauty of Rome’s countless masterpieces, have you ever wondered: is there something behind the art? In truth, there are several works of art in Rome that hide secrets within their strokes. Some are cryptic messages, some are religious commentary, and some are simply obscure symbolism that only the artist can decode. Read on for seven of the most fascinating, and then go see them with newly opened eyes. figures that make clear outlines of specific parts of the organ. Michelangelo was known to have dissected human corpses in secret, although this was strictly forbidden by the church at the time. In the same chapel there is a much smaller and more obscure message that Michelangelo included in his masterpiece. The detail can be found on the spandrel that features the Contrasting with the other sibyls, who are all young and some strikingly beautiful, the Cumean Sibyl is a hag with a lined face and a manly body. This choice might have been a deliberate slight to Pope Julius II, the pontiff who commissioned the chapel ceiling and was the bane of Michelangelo’s existence. Julius II claimed that when the Cumean Sibyl had prophesized the coming of a savior, she was talking about the pope himself— not Christ. Michelangelo added insult to injury with a rude gesture from the nude figure depicted beside her. His thumb is placed between his first and second fingers, a gesture that was called “giving the fig,” the equivalent of the middle finger today in terms of disrespect and vulgarity. Cumean Sibyl. Much of Rome’s art that holds secret meanings can be found inside the Vatican Museums, which is no surprise considering the mysterious nature of the place. Perhaps the most famous is the Vatican’s number- one sight, the centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Surrounding God are a dozen or so figures, including the as- yet- uncreated Eve, and around them all billows a large purple mantle. The shape of this fabric is an unmistakable cross- section of the human brain, down to the position of certain The Creation of Adam, 14 WHERE ROME I NOVEMBER 2019
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