#3. Flipping Off the Pope
When you think of the Sistine Chapel, you probably think of the Creation of Adam and God zapping Adam to life with his finger, but it's actually only one image among hundreds. Over four years, Michelangelo and company painted a crapload of cherubs and prophets and one drunk, naked Biblical hero.
And to honor his patron, Pope Julius II, Michelangelo cleverly stuck his sexy mug on the body of the prophet Zechariah. Which was a very sweet thing to do unless you get a close look at those angels chilling behind him.
Wait, What the Hell?
That sweet tiny baby angel is telling the Pope to fuck off.
What that precious little baby is doing with his finger is called "the fig" and its meaning is not nearly as adorable as the fat-faced baby doing it. By sticking his thumb in between his index and middle fingers, he's making an old world gesture that essentially means "fuck you." And he's making it at the Pope.
It turns out that Pope Julius II, aka "the Warrior Pope," was such an asshole that he was openly referred to as Il Papa Terribile. Michelangelo chose to seal his fate by personally flicking him off in God's house high above countless priests, cardinals and tourists for eternity. The beauty of the gesture was that medieval soot and the actual height of the painting prevented anyone from seeing it.
Not only that, but three decades after finishing the ceiling, Michelangelo was invited back to paint the wall behind the altar. This time he didn't mess around with mandy-pandy thumb gestures. Oh no. This time he straight painted the mouth of Hell directly behind the Pope's chair.
Either the mouth of Hell or mouth of the Goonie cave. Probably Hell.
Besides being the quintessential study in rock hard Baby Jesus abs...
...Domenico Ghirlandaio's Madonna with Saint Giovannino also features an interesting little blob hovering in the sky over Mary's left shoulder. Especially when you notice the figure in the background, kind up gawking up at it.
Wait, What the Hell?
Some Renaissance paintings totally have UFOs in them.
Domenico Ghirlandaio's Madonna with Saint Giovannino is just one of several medieval paintings with strange, kinda creepy-looking unidentified flying objects soaring around in them. And this particular one has had UFO enthusiasts salivating for years.
Never mind that one expert nay says and poo-poos and claims the images are consistent with early Christian iconography intended to represent the so-called "Holy Spirit." He wasn't there. And anyway, since when would the Holy Spirit take the form of a squat little gold man space traveling in a flying arrow?
Since never. That's when.
Or a flying bowler hat?
Maybe when he's feeling dapper?
And then there are the cases of people actually illustrating stuff they claimed they saw. In one woodcut, Swiss citizens jauntily witness black spheres hovering in the sky. The dots were said to turn red before vanishing.
Or someone just attacked this woodcut with a medieval hole-punch.
Then you have the illustration below, a detail from a woodcut of a mass UFO sighting in Nuremberg, Germany in 1561. The story was that on the morning of April 14, geometric shapes erupted from the sky to do battle with each other.
Although it's hard to take this illustration seriously when the sun has a face.
Science has been quick to dismiss these events as aurora borealis, but since the people witnessing them had no idea what the fuck NASA was, Hans Glaser's engraving of Nuremberg came to be known as a "star-battle" (which may explain why the lowest of the spaceships looks a lot like the Super Star Destroyer Executor).
#1. PORN! PORN! PORN!
Much of the art made during the Italian Renaissance was specifically commissioned by the Catholic Church, to adorn the walls of Catholic cathedrals, for the everlasting edification of Catholic God lovers. And up until the mid-1500s, the Catholic church was pretty cool with artists getting a free hand on their walls.
Sometimes "free hand" meant tastefully rendered imaginings of the heroes of the Bible. And sometimes "free hand" meant, literally, having a free hand to masturbate with after viewing said pictures.
Wait, What the Hell?
Renaissance artists often used their art to get their freak on.
At least until the Counter-Reformation, when church put the kibosh on the flagrant display of holy genitalia and hired a loincloth painter to cover the most offending penis action. Such as the scene above, from Michelangelo's (AGAIN) Last Judgment. Prior to the cover-up, Mr. Red Robe back there was full-on naked, and looking down at St. Lady Gun's badonkadonk, who was also naked. And considering her bent over posture, it totally looked like he was getting some from the backside.
But the Catholic Church wasn't the only game in town, and plenty of other Renaissance artists used their prodigious talents to prove it. Once these guys were out in the secular world, things started getting explicit. Such as:
Snakey guy on girl...
Girl on girl...
You'd think that's piss until you notice that curators catalog it under "Ejaculating." If you are one of those people who never really appreciated old-time artwork before now, we beg you: look at the expression on that horse's face. Who among us hasn't worn that very expression, in that very situation?
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And check out some terrifying moments hiding in children's films, in 7 Horrifying Moments from Classic Kids Movies. Or find out about some easter eggs in your own body, in 5 Superpowers You Didn't Know Your Body Was Hiding From You.