Students from Kent State Geauga Study Anatomy & Physiology at Cleveland Museum of Art Exhibit

Michelangelo Reveals the Synchrony of Art and Science

During a recent guided tour at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the synchrony of art and science was on full display for Anatomy and Physiology students from Kent State University Geauga.  Associate Professor Dr. Daniela Popescu took her class to visit the special exhibit, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, to help students gain a deeper understanding of muscle identification and the human muscular system.

Dr. Popescu said, “My students were able to attend a guided tour, see these invaluable drawings made by Michelangelo, and discover the beauty of interdisciplinary approaches (art and anatomy). Most of these drawings are part of a collection from the Netherlands, and we were very fortunate to be able to view them at home in Cleveland. This opportunity of being able to view these fascinating drawings made by Michelangelo about 500 years ago and explore his mind was invaluable. Michelangelo made anatomical studies of the human bodies by performing dissections of human cadavers since he was 18 years old.”

This field trip was made possible through financial support from the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs from the Kent Campus for a research/scholarly activity. The funds covered exhibit entrance and parking fees for the students, providing them access to invaluable drawings made by Renaissance painter, sculptor, and architect Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564). The exhibit allowed them to explore the studies of human anatomy behind the master’s well-known art pieces, including examples from the Sistine Chapel. 

This was Dr. Popescu’s first request for this type of grant funding. She said, “I was very happy when I found out that my request…was approved by the University Research Council at the Kent Campus, because being able to see these precious drawings made by Michelangelo, 500 years ago, may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some of my students.”

Drawing was the primary tool used by Michelangelo to plan his compositions, including sculptures and fresco paintings, Dr. Popescu explained. He was also among the first Italian artists who considered the knowledge of human anatomy necessary to understand the appearance of a human body in motion.

“Michelangelo’s drawings unveiled his creative process and provided us with a deeper understanding of his detailed studies of the human anatomy,” Dr. Popescu said. “My students and I were very fortunate to be able to see, among other Michelangelo’s drawings, anatomical studies of the muscles of the lower or upper limbs. The accuracy of his anatomical studies is amazing.”
Michelangelo’s drawings solidified students’ knowledge about muscle identification and the muscular system. Simultaneously, it expanded their knowledge because most of Michelangelo’s drawings show the muscles of the human body in an active pose, in contrast to a passive pose, which is usually shown in textbooks. 

By the end of the visit, students were able to identify a few muscles of the lower limb on a Michelangelo drawing titled “Four Studies of a Leg” (1515-1520). As one student, Lauren Petrick, said, “I really enjoyed being able to visit the Michelangelo exhibit. It was a really cool experience to be able to see drawings that were done long ago. It was also very cool that the muscles he drew were correct, and while we were in the exhibit, my classmates and I were able to identify some of the muscles we learned in our Anatomy class.“

The exhibit, Michelangelo: Mind of the Master, remains open to the public at the Cleveland Museum of Art through January 5, 2020. Entry fees range from $5-$15.

POSTED: Friday, December 13, 2019 - 11:12am
UPDATED: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 9:39am
Estelle R. Brown