#3. Leonardo da Vinci's "Perfect" Male Suffered from a Possibly Fatal Condition
Leonardo da Vinci's drawing the "Vitruvian Man" is unquestionably the most famous work celebrating the manly pastime of making snow angels while "rocking out."
The sketch was Leonardo's attempt to draw a human body in accordance with the laws of proportion laid out by the Roman architect Vitruvius. In addition to using math to define how the ideal male body should look (much as the porn industry does today), Vitruvius also claimed that these rules reflected a sort of sacred geometry in nature and should be applied to man-made buildings. Many artists have tried to put Vitruvius' laws to paper, but Leo's version continues to be considered the closest to what Vitruvius claimed was physical perfection.
But apparently no one ever took the time to check out what ol' Vitruvy was packing -- or at least no one admitted to it until Dr. Hutan Ashrafian came along. You see, Ashrafian is a clinical researcher, and when he took it upon himself to closely examine Leonardo's 500-year-old pen-and-ink dong, he noticed something incongruous with the idea of perfection: the discernible bulge just above it.
Leonardo da Vinci
"Baby, come on -- it's not contagious."
The good doctor made the diagnosis that the model Leonardo used for the drawing suffered from an inguinal hernia (basically, it's when your intestines play peek-a-boo through the doorway your balls used to enter their wrinkly abode). These days, about a third of men will get one during their lives. Women are luckier -- since their balls never dropped, so to speak, only about 3 percent of them will have to deal with the painful condition.
Today, it's not such a big deal to rip your guts open, shove that shit back where it belongs, and Velcro you back together, but this was half a millennium ago, when people like da Vinci were still figuring out what the hell a spleen was. Back then, such a condition was likely a case of slow, agonizing crotch-death.
Leonardo da Vinci
"Baby, I'm dying ... hand job?"
It's unknown whether Leonardo used a hot live model for the drawing, or one of the cold dead variety (as was common practice back then). According to Ashrafian, if the model was deceased, it was probably complications from the hernia that did him in. If he was alive, on the other hand, then he'd likely be on the receiving end of a crotch-punch from the Grim Reaper sometime after posing as Leonardo's muse. Such was the tragic life of a Renaissance-era male model. Speaking of which ...
#2. According to Raphael's Portrait of Him, Michelangelo Had the Gout
Raphael's "The School of Athens" is one of the most famous frescoes of all time. Painted on the wall of the pope's library in the Vatican, it depicts the greatest philosophical minds of antiquity. Raphael, of course, had no way of knowing what these long-dead toga fans looked like when they roamed the Ancient Agora of Athens, so in accordance with Renaissance tradition, he instead based their likenesses on his friends, or, alternatively, people he thought were assholes.
Or his friends, who were also assholes.
Michelangelo happened to be working on the Sistine Chapel when Raphael painted his famed fresco, and Raphael chose to celebrate his artistic buddy down the hall by casting him as Heraclitus. Five hundred years on, the portrait elucidates something about Mikey that he couldn't possibly have known in his lifetime: According to Dr. Carlos Hugo Espinel, Michelangelo-as-Heraclitus' strangely angular knee indicates that he suffered from gout, a kind of inflammatory arthritis with a bonus helping of kidney and bladder stones, because sometimes God says unbearable joint pain just isn't quite enough.
It seems like a long jump to this conclusion from a single knobby knee, but in fact, Michelangelo's living conditions and work habits support the hypothesis. The man was a consummate workaholic, and he would often spend days on end concentrating on being a superhuman artist without so much as a second thought about all that mortal "sustaining oneself" bullshit. He would subsist on minimal intake of bread and wine during these work sprees, and as such, he'd be exposed to lead -- a contributor to gout -- from the lead-based paint, and because wine was made using lead containers in those days. Add to that Michelangelo's numerous diary entries bemoaning all his bladder and kidney problems, and ... yeah, dude had the gout.
So the next time you feel like bragging to some Internet comment section about your accomplishments in life, just remember -- Michelangelo painted the fucking Sistine Chapel while this was happening to him:
Sometimes perspective is a tiny foot-chomping demon.
#1. Rembrandt's Entire Art Career May Be Thanks to a Lazy Eye
Rembrandt's contributions to the art world are a major reason that the era in which he lived and worked has come to be known as the Dutch Golden Age.
It's like the Renaissance, but with windmills.
He left behind a staggering body of work, a hefty chunk of which was self-portraits, because making someone else sit their ass still is hard. If said portraits' level of realism is to be trusted, then they reveal a physical trait of Rembrandt's that, on first thought, would seem like a hindrance to becoming a great artist, but in fact likely helped nudge him along that path. That trait, as evidenced below, was a lazy eye.
National Gallery Publications
"One of my eyes gazes straight into your soul. The other gazes into your left ear hole."
Dr. Margaret Livingstone -- she of the neurological explanation behind the "Mona Lisa"'s smile -- studied Rembrandt's self-portraits and discovered that in all but one, the eyes stare out in different directions. And this isn't just a case of Rembrandt getting sloppy with his brush -- in the portraits he painted of other people, the eyes are straight as an arrow. So what does this tell us?
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
It tells us that sex with the missus always felt like a threesome.
It tells us that Rembrandt was better at seeing the world in two dimensions than regular-sighted folk, and that this "disability" may well have led to him developing his incredible artistic talents. That's because the brains of people who are cross-eyed or wall-eyed tend to learn to discard the input from the offending eye, resulting in stereoblindness -- that is, the inability to see the world in 3D. It takes input from both eyes to construct a three-dimensional image. If you want proof, conduct this little experiment the next time you go to a 3D movie: Cover one eye and measure the amount of time it takes you to puke. Repeat until you stop questioning what we tell you.
People tend to develop stereoblindness in early childhood, so if Rembrandt saw the world in two dimensions, he possessed a natural ability -- from a very young age -- to translate what he saw in front of him onto a two-dimensional canvas. And Rembrandt may not have been the only one to be gifted with a disability that gave him artistic superpowers -- a further study showed that a disproportionate amount of famous artists and current art students suffer from stereoblindness as well. So there you have it: The incongruous key to becoming a successful visual artist might just lie in having a major visual deficiency.
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Related: Did you know whenever you see art depicting the Virgin Mary, chances are good she's squirting breast milk? Or that your favorite piece might have a glaring mistake you never noticed? This is why art is cooler than you thought. Every work is like a Where's Waldo? book.