Michelangelo. The Creation of Adam (detail, Sistine Chapel). 1510. Fresco. Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome.
In an article (1990) titled, "An interpretation of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam Based on Neuroanatomy" (JAMA 264:1837-1841, 1990), Frank Meshberger MD., writes:
THE BRILLIANT Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti painted magnificent frescoes on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, laboring from 1508 to 1512. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, Michelangelo performed this work himself without assistance. Scholars debate whether he had any guidance from the Church in the selection of the scenes, and what meaning the scenes were to convey. In the fresco traditionally called the Creation of Adam, but which might be more aptly titled the Endowment of Adam, I believe that Michelangelo encoded a special message.
The sculpture and painting of Michelangelo reflect the great knowledge of anatomy that he acquired by performing dissections of the human body. His experience in dissection is documented in Lives of the Artists, written by his contemporary, Georgio Vasari. Vasari says, "For the church of Santo Spirito in Florence Michelangelo made a crucifix of wood which was placed above the lunette of the high altar, where it still is. He made this to please the prior, who placed rooms at his disposal where Michelangelo very often used to flay dead bodies in order to discover the secrets of anatomy...."
The Creation of Adam fresco shows Adam and God reaching toward one another, arms outstretched, fingers almost touching. One can imagine the spark of life jumping from God to Adam across that synapse between their fingertips. However, Adam is already alive, his eyes are open, and he is completely formed; but it is the intent of the picture that Adam is to "receive" something [life/knowledge/spirit] from God.
Note that the pituitary gland has 2 divisions, the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary, which are visible to the naked eye. Is it mere coincidence that Michelangelo didn't paint individual toes on the foot of the angel which dangles down in a position very reminiscent of the pituitary gland?
Perhaps the most interesting question is: what is the "hidden message" that Michelangelo portrayed by superimposing God on an outline of the human brain?