The Hidden Symbols of Fertility in Michelangelo’s Medici Chapel

Michelangelo often surreptitiously inserted pagan symbols into his works of art, many of them possibly associated with anatomical representations. A new analysis suggests that Michelangelo may have concealed symbols associated with female anatomy within his famous work in the Medici Chapel.

Highlight showing the sides of the tombs containing the bull/ram skulls, spheres/circles linked by cords and the shell (A). Note the similarity of the skull and horns to the uterus and fallopian tubes, respectively (B). The shell contained in image A clearly resembles the shell contained in Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” (1483), Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy (C). Image B of the uterus and adnexa from Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy.
Image courtesy Clinical Anatomy

For example, the sides of tombs in the chapel depict bull/ram skulls and horns with similarity to the uterus and fallopian tubes, respectively.


Numerous studies have offered interpretations of the link between anatomical figures and hidden symbols in works of art not only by Michelangelo but also by other Renaissance artists.

“This study provides a previously unavailable interpretation of one of Michelangelo’s major works, and will certainly interest those who are passionate about the history of anatomy,” said Dr. Deivis de Campos, lead author of the Clinical Anatomy article.


Another recent analysis by Dr. de Campos and his colleagues revealed similar hidden symbols in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

The article “Pagan symbols associated with the female anatomy in the Medici Chapel by Michelangelo Buonarroti,”  by Deivis de Campos et al., is published in Clinical Anatomyclick here to access the article.

See also: The drawings that Michelangelo did not want you to see