Would Michelangelo Have Painted more Masterpieces If He Didn’t Have Back Pain?

Would Michelangelo Buonarroti, the famous Renaissance artist who painted the Sistine Chapel, have had a longer career if he didn’t suffer from back pain?

Michelangelo’s biographers all agreed that he suffered from severe back pain due to literally bending over backwards while painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceilings. Michelangelo himself even wrote a poem about his experience:

…my beard turns up to heaven; my nape falls in,

fixed on my spine: my breastbone visibly

grows like a harp: a rich embroidery

bedews my face from brush-drops thick and thin.”

(from: On the Painting of the Sistine Chapel).

If only he had access to massage therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists and personal trainers!

Michelangelo had so much pain and strain that he had constant cramps in his back, legs and arms. He complained about his dire existence in a letter to his brother:

It is understood that I should love myself more than others, yet I can hardly provide myself with what I need. I endure many hardships and bodily fatigue here; I have no friends at all, and I do not want any. I hardly have time to eat what I need to keep going; so I do not want anybody to bother me, for I just couldn’t take it all.”

(from: I, Michelangelo, Sculptor: an Autobiography Through Letters, ed. Irving Stone).

What masterpieces are you stopping yourself from creating by neglecting your health? Physical, emotional and intellectual health are often taken for granted. However, we all need to invest in our health a little every day. Stress and tension can make us snappy and tired, whereas rest, exercise and relaxation can rejuvenate us.

Treat yourself to a massage, a training session and a good book. Hug a friend. Focus on the feeling of wellbeing. Prepare yourself to create that masterpiece and live a long, happy life.