Christian Kleinbub, "Michelangelo’s Inner Anatomies" (Penn State UP, 2020)


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In Michelangelo’s Inner Anatomies (Penn State University Press), Christian Kleinbub challenges the notion that Michelangelo, renowned for his magnificent portrayals of the human body, was merely concerned with “superficial” anatomy—that is, the parts of the body that can be seen from the outside.

Providing a fresh perspective on the artist’s portrayals of the human figure, Kleinbub investigates what he calls the artist’s “inner anatomical poetics,” revealing the Michelangelo’s beautiful bodies as objects of profound intellectual and spiritual significance.

In so doing, Michelangelo’s Inner Anatomies illuminates how Renaissance discourses on anatomical organs and organ systems informed the artist’s figures, linking the interior experiences of his subjects to physiological processes associated with sex, love, devotion, and contemplation, among other thoughts and feelings. The book’s case studies cover the full range of Michelangelo’s prodigious output—including such iconic works as the Sistine Ceiling, Dying Slave, and Last Judgment—and reconstructs what the artist knew of internal anatomy and how he projected that knowledge into his most important works.

Drawing upon theological, poetic, philosophical, and scientific texts, the book shows how Michelangelo created a context-dependent, adaptable practice that could be adjusted according to the needs of an individual situation or commission and manipulated to embody, literally and figuratively, a variety of meanings.

Deeply researched and convincingly argued, this study heralds a significant shift in thinking about the Italian Renaissance body as it pertains not only to the work of Michelangelo but also to the era as a whole.

Christian K. Kleinbub is Professor of Italian Renaissance Art at The Ohio State University and CoDirector of the New Foundation of Art History.

Allison Leigh is Assistant Professor of Art History and the SLEMCO/LEQSF Regents Endowed Professor in Art & Architecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Her research explores European and Russian art of the eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries.

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