A Recent Study Shows That Michelangelo Was Actually Quite Short

Michelangelo Buonarroti’s legacy as an artist leaves some enormous shoes to fill. However, in real life, the great painter’s shoes were quite small — as was Michelangelo himself.

Italian researchers recently examined three pairs of shoes discovered in Michelangelo’s home following his death and believed to be his: a pair of leather shoes and a single leather slipper (the companion was stolen in 1873), which are now on display at the Casa Buonarroti Museum in Florence, Italy.

About the Research

Michelangelo's alleged shoes, in the collection of Florence's Casa Buonarroti MuseumThe researchers’ analysis is the first to estimate his physical characteristics using measurements of personal objects such as footwear, and they discovered that, while still an artistic giant, he stood no taller than 5 feet 2 inches.

Francesco Galassi, a paleopathologist, and Elena Varotto, a forensic anthropologist, measured the shoes and then calculated the wearer’s foot dimensions and height; their findings corresponded to Michelangelo’s description in a 16th-century painting and book by Giorgio Vasari. According to the study, Vasari stated that his shoulders were “broad,” but the rest of his body was “somewhat slender in proportion” and his stature was average.

The shoes were all of the same sizes, implying that both pairs (once the slipper pair was completed) were worn by the same person. Although the shoes have long been attributed to the artist, the scientists noted that they could have belonged to another man in the artist’s household, such as a family member or one of the artist’s descendants.

The Remains of Michelangelo Have Never Been Analyzed

A Recent Study Shows That Michelangelo Was Actually Quite Short Michelangelo may have been in poor health near the end of his life, with gout and lead poisoning, as well as severe arthritis in his hands, according to clues discovered in the artist’s writings and painted portraits. Because the artist’s remains have never been exhumed and analyzed, scientists cannot be certain of the artist’s health at the time of his death at the age of 88. However, the authors reported that studies like this one can help fill in some of the physical details about the artist near the end of his life.