Michelangelo’s health was greatly effected during the uncertain times of determining what was to be done about Pope Julius II’s tomb. In June of 1531 news of Michelangelo’s failing
health reached Rome.
Pope Clement recommended that Michelangelo work less and exercise in order to ease his spirits. Michelangelo worked hard and ate and slept very poorly. By November of that year Pope Clement sent word that Michelangelo was to set aside all work with the exception of anything absolutely necessary for the Medicean monuments and to take better care of his health.
Many say that Michelangelo painted while laying on his back for nearly four years, others that he stood and had to frequently lean backwards in order to paint over his head. Little is known of the toll that this took on his body or the affects of all the paint that he would have breathed into his lungs.
In 1549 Michelangelo was diagnosed and treated for nephrolithiasis, or kidney stones, a problem that plagued him for the rest of his life. In fact, an obstructive nephropathy may have been the cause of his death. By 1555 he seemed to have developed arthritis. From a young age Michelangelo was participating in dissections. This interest gave him a special familiarity with the human anatomy and function. Some of his poetry and drawings reflect his interest in kidney function probably due to his interest in his own condition. His painting of the Separation of Land and Water on the Sistine Chapel ceiling depicts the shape of a bisected right kidney.
Find out more about Michelangelo's life
Creation of Adam (hands detail)
Creation of Adam
Drawing of a Woman