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 Aly, Michelangelo’s Son


More than a few people have asked me about this book cover, and whether – apart from the huge face in the sky talking to Adam – there are other faces too, peering out from behind the letters lower down. Well, yes, there are, and they are all characters from the story, but there is much more to it than that.

The book cover was actually cropped from Michelangelo’s larger design, only the left half being visible on the cover. We all know the traditional story: it is from Genesis, or so we are told. Adam is supposedly awaiting the spark of life from God’s finger… Except… the Bible says Adam was formed from dust, and life breathed into his nose by God, and that is not what we see. The tale actually depicted,with the famous fervent fingers was the first of many clues that the painting is not from Genesis, but from the artist’s real life.

The painting is an allegory. Adam is not Adam, and God is not God. The cherubs are not cherubs, and the angel was certainly no angel. Adam is in fact identified in the faintest lettering as a lad called ‘Iohannes’, Michelangelo’s nephew, a boy who met a gruesome fate at the hands of the Pope (who is the true identity of ‘God’ here), and his ‘Prince of the Church’ Orsini.

In the sky close to Adam’s head the artist painted a huge face, and issuing from its mouth a promise that vengeance would be obtained. He was declaring vendetta on the Pope for what he had done.

Ghosted into the sky above the two famous hands we see Aly gazing down, a likeness captured by his uncle when he was a little over twenty years of age, and added here because he participated in the painting of the ceiling.

 Lower, and to the right (and present in the book cover only in our imaginations), is God’s famous cloud full of cherubs, each one of whom Michelangelo thoughtfully labelled.The artist’s brothers are all there – Buonarroto, GiovanSimone, Sigismondo – and his only elder brother Lionardo, not marked but just to our right of Sigismondo, victims all of that same Pope Julius.

There too are his two unfortunate nephews, the sons of Lionardo… and a spray of blood drifting from Iohannes in the cloud beneath. The drape flowing away in the breeze Michelangelo gave the Renaissance  colour of death – a greyish green. Everything single detail he painted had meaning.

There too are members of the Pope’s family: the lady everyone thought was his illegitimate daughter, Felice… and her little son Giulio, on whom ‘God’s’ other forefinger rests.

To complete the picture, Michelangelo formed the blood red cloud into the shape of a dolphin – the creature that according to legend transported the god of desire, Eros, over the waves in search of his prey… Can you see it?

But what of the hidden faces? There’s a guide higher in the post as to who they are, but there are many others too, and just as famous – and you will have to read the book to discover then. Or there again, you could visit the website! It provides lots of backup information – family trees, timelines, likenesses, and loads of things hidden away in the most famous of paintings! The link is: http://www.whatalyknew.com – or just click (below) – and go!