News and Features

Michelangelo Was One Homely Dude

A new exhibition in Florence, Italy, showcases some of the few portraits that exist of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Art historians have long known that the famous sculptor, architect and painter of the Sistine Chapel wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous: At 17, he had his nose smashed by a fellow student. Also, his personal hygiene left a fair amount to be desired.

A chief reason there are so few likenesses of the artist seems to have been his avoidance of any portraiture.  This is the first exhibition to collect the drawings and paintings.

“Movies have always portrayed Michelangelo as an attractive, good-looking man. On the contrary, he wasn’t handsome at all,” exhibition curator Pina Ragionieri, the director of Casa Buonarroti, a house the artist bought in 1508, told Discovery News. “Most of all, he was perfectly aware of his ugliness and did not want to be portrayed. Indeed, he left no documented self-portrait.”

One image that has been construed as a possible likeness is the flayed skin that St. Bartholomew holds up in “The Last Judgment,” the wall fresco that Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel.