Diagnosis in Painting

The Mystery of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Goiter

Davide Lazzeri, Donatella Lippi, Manuel Francisco Castello, and George M. Weisz


Whilst painting the vault of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo Buonarroti left an autographical sketch that revealed a prominence at the front of his hyper-extended neck. This image was recently diagnosed as goiter. The poet Michelangelo in a sonnet dated 1509 described himself as being afflicted by goiter similarly to the cats in the northern Italian Lombardy, a region with endemic goiter. Several narratives extended this sonnet into a pathological theory. The analyses of Michelangelo’s works, however, his portraits and self-portraits, of poems and major biographies, have not indicated the likelihood of goiter. This investigation makes an attempt to assess the diagnosis on clinical as well as iconographical grounds.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2016;7(1):e0010