Thursday, May 20, 2010

Polydactyl Popes

Yesterday, I asked readers to guess what was suspiciously off on the Sistine Madonna for this month's giveaway. Some of you are obviously on to my tricks. "Gabal" was right. The winged babies were a clever decoy to distract you from Sixtus IV. (Shown here).  

But "Me" had the answer that I was thinking of (although I have to say Gabal that the Virgin's toe does look oddly forshortened to me too). "Me" - please email me and send me your address and I will get out your prize. (The contact link is under the scary lady to the left)

Answer: Pope Sixtus IV has an extra finger.

Art historians have long debated the meaning of the six fingers. It is doubtful that Raphael did it by accident or that Sixtus actually had six fingers. One theory is that he was making a play on the number "six" in his name and the Pope having a "sixth" sense. This painting is not the only one where that sly Raphael snuck in some extra digits.

In Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, he gave Joseph an extra toe. Joseph is the figure on the right placing the ring on her finger and the extra toe is on the foot he is placing forward.

Raphael also gave Pope Julius II an extra finger in The Disputation on the Holy Sacrament. Detail of this painting below.

Thanks to everyone who played along. From now on you will be looking for that sixth digit in Raphael's paintings. Let me know if you know of any other incidents of art deformities. I like to use these examples in my school visits. Kids love to find hidden stuff in paintings!

I will have more giveaways next month and all newsletter subscribers are entered to win Ship of Rome by John Stack.

Sources and Further Reading:
Heindel, Max. The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception Mystic Christianity, Book Jungle, 2006


Amy said...

The Sarcasm Queen in me wants to think that Raphael was just exercising his twisted Italian sense of humour by adding all those extra fingers and toes.
Or maybe he was trying to invent a High Renaissance version of "Where's Waldo?"

Emma said...

Is it just me or does baby Jesus have a foot sticking out quite impossibly from under the virgin's arm despite the fact that he (and his outer leg) is clearly draped up in cloth?