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Michelangelo’s Small Feet and 5 Other Strange Artist Facts

19 Sep 2021 | 0 Comments

There are some facts that you might not be told when you’re walking around a gallery looking at the little notes next to each artwork. However, these can sometimes be the most interesting and amusing nuggets of information you’ll ever find in the history of art.


Here are some of our favourite weird and wacky facts about some of the world’s most iconic artists, that you probably hadn’t heard before!



Michelangelo Was Short




It was recently discovered that the man famous for painting the Sistine Chapel may have needed a few extra few inches on the scaffold for him to reach that lofty ceiling.


Researchers at the Forensic Anthropology, Paleopathology, and Bioarchaeology Research Centre in Italy made a detailed analysis of two pairs of shoes and a slipper, thought to have been owned by Buonarotti himself.


The artefacts are owned by the Casa Buonarroti Museum, whose collection not only includes paintings by Michelangelo but a 10,000-book library and... of course... his shoes.


It turns out that Michelangelo was most likely a diminutive 5 foot 2 inches tall.


However, this wasn’t unusually small back in renaissance Italy. The famous writer of early Italian art history, Giorgio Vasari said of Michelangelo that he was ‘in good proportion’ and although having wide shoulders, he was of ‘middle height’.

Come to think of it, makes you wonder what size feet Charlton Heston had?



Rossetti Had a Wombat




Speaking of small things... the famous English painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti was known to have kept a pet wombat.


He was intrigued by the furry little things and would often get his friends to meet him in the Wombats Lair at London Zoo. He once declared that ‘the Wombat is a Joy, a Triumph, a Delight, a Madness!’


In 1869 he acquired his first pet wombat, which he called ‘Top’. He would show Top off to his friends at dinner parties by allowing him to sleep on the table, as a strange sort of living centrepiece.


Rossetti wasn’t only a wombat lover though he also kept a variety of animals including llamas and toucans in his back garden.


Sadly, Top’s life at the Rossetti townhouse was short-lived, and he died just 6 months after he first arrived.


Rossetti was heartbroken by the loss of his little friend, and so he had him preserved and stuffed so that he could always keep Top around.



Rosa Bonheur Had a Lion




Not all pets are as small and cute as a wombat...


In fact, Rosa Bonheur was as obsessed with big cats as Rossetti was with wombats.


She owned a large chateau to the Southeast of Paris, where she kept a menagerie of animals including stags, tigers, panthers, and (you guessed it) lions.


Initially, she kept them in a large cage and fed them by hand, and as they became tamer, she would allow them out to run around an enclosure she had built for them.


Eventually, they were so tame that she was able to play with them and stroke them, as well as getting up close and personal with them in order to paint them.


With a relationship to animals like this and such incredible access to them, it’s no surprise that she became one of the most well-renowned painters of wild animals in all of European art history!



Jacques Louis David Had a Nasty Scar




Jacques Louis David might never have had to tangle with a wild beast, but he did get in a scuffle that left him with a life-changing scar on his left cheek.


During a sword fight with one of his fellow students, while he was studying to become a painter, David suffered a blow to the face.


Strangely, David knew all too well the dangers of fighting in duels, having lost his own father at the age of nine after losing a duel of his own.


The cut would develop into a large, tumour-like growth on the side of his face, which not only left him with a speech impediment, but also the unfortunate nickname, ‘David of the Tumour’.


In a society where quick-witted and sharp-tongued debates were at the forefront of daily life, this would have had a massive impact on David’s social credibility.


Some have argued that this may have been a driving force behind his pursuit of artistic greatness, because while he may not have been able to express himself in words, at least he could do it through the medium of paint on canvas.



Joan Mitchell Had Synaesthesia




Synaesthesia is an incredible phenomenon whereby a person experiences a mixture of senses as a result of a single stimulus.


For example, when you hear a certain musical note, you see the colour green. Or when you see something that you don’t like, you taste the flavour of apple juice.


It’s thought that between 2 and 4% of the population have some form of synaesthesia, and it can be in the form of several different senses being associated with each other. It’s also almost entirely different for each person who experiences it.


For Joan Mitchell, it is thought that she would experience colours, not only when listening to music, but also when meeting people or feeling certain emotions.


She was, of course, known to listen to music when she painted; and her brash, abstract masterpieces certainly suggest their musical inspiration.



Salvador Dali Designed Chupa Chups Logo




Dali might be best-known for his melting clocks and crawling ants, but one of his designs that you have probably seen in the flesh more than any other, is the logo for the Spanish lollipop brand, Chupa Chups.


He was commissioned to design the logo in 1969 and played an important role not just in their design but also in how they would be used.


It was Salvador’s idea to put the logo on the top of the lollipop, rather than the side, so that it would always be visible and less scrunched up – very clever marketing!


Obviously a little strapped for cash, Dali also designed the branding for the Eurovision song contest in the same year, as well as the stage design for the final itself.


Although, this wasn’t quite as big a hit as his work for Chupa Chups...


So, next time you spot a Chupa Chups in a service station sweet section, remember that you’re standing face to face with a Salvador Dali artwork!