• Elisa Nuevo Vallín

Sign Language in a fresco from 16th century; Awesome finding, pure coincidence or speculation?

I came across a fascinating Sign Language “fact” whilst roaming the internet recently, and I wanted to share this with you all, because, although it may turn out to be “something and nothing”, I have to admit that I found reading the article really exciting. If you are a big fan of history, hidden secrets and mystery, then you will enjoy this post too. Come back the Da Vinci Code – all is forgiven!

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) was a renowned Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the High Renaissance born in the Republic of Florence, considered as one of the greatest artist of his age and rival of Leonardo da Vinci.


Michelangelo painted the fresco that chronicles The Crucifixion of Saint Peter in the Cappella Paolina, in the Vatican City (Italy) between 1546 and 1550.

This fresco may demonstrates that this genius of human anatomy painted some characters making hand gestures that may be in accordance with the ancient Italian manual alphabet (sign language).

Apparently at that time, the Italian manual alphabet was sometimes used as secret codes by hearing people, and not just a way of communication for deaf people. We already know that the Italian artists of this time often included secret or coded messages in their pictures. Also, despite studies which show manual alphabets were used by deaf people in Europe in the early 15th century, they did not become a common form of communication for the deaf until after the 18th century and the beginning of formal education in schools.


It is well known that during the Renaissance it was difficult for artists to expressing their true intentions when producing a work of art.

The Catholic Church used to impose many legal and social restrictions in order to "ensure artists remained in their places and to protect them from the sin of pride."

This is the reason why we can find images of the artists' own faces or letters alluding to their names within their works.


And this is exactly what we might be seeing in The Crucifixion of Saint Peter painting.


At the bottom of the fresco we can find three figures making hand gestures that may match the letters M, B, D and F from the ancient Italian manual alphabet, hence, it could be interpreted as the initial letters of the artist’s name: Michelangelo Buonarroti Di Firenze.


There are people that assert that the way they are holding their hands and moving their bodies at the same time seem very "deaf-typical".


Yes, I know this is thrilling isn’t it?! Now draw your own conclusions...







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