LONDON: Renowned Italian artist Michelangelo likely suffered from arthritis in his later years, but addiction to work may have extended the use of his hands until he died, a new study suggests.

Prolonged hammering and chiselling accelerated degenerative arthritis in the hands of Michelangelo, sculptor, painter and one of the greatest artists of all time. However, the intense work probably helped him keep his hands in shape until he died, researchers said.

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They can find out so much just by analysing the paintings? That's pretty cool!

Arindam Datta

Doctors analysed three portraits of Michelangelo between the ages of 60 and 65 which show that the small joints of his left hand were affected by non-inflammatory degenerative changes that can be interpreted as osteoarthritis. In earlier portraits of the artist his hands appear with no signs of deformity.

"It is clear from literature that Michelangelo was afflicted and in 1552, in a letter to his nephew, he wrote that writing gave him great discomfort. Despite this he continued to create one masterpiece after another and was seen hammering up to six days before his death in 1564. "The diagnosis of osteoarthritis offers one plausible explanation for Michelangelo's loss of dexterity in old age and emphasises his triumph over infirmity as he persisted in his work until his last days," Lazzeri said. PTI by an illness involving his joints. In the past this has been attributed to gout but this can be dismissed," said lead author Davide Lazzeri. This is because there are no signs of inflammation in the artist's hands and no evidence of any tophi, the small lumps of uric acid crystals that can form under the skin of people with gout, Lazzeri said.

According to letters written by Michelangelo, his hand symptoms appeared later in life and in 1552, in a letter to his nephew, he wrote that writing gave him great discomfort. Despite this he continued to create one masterpiece after another and was seen hammering up to six days before his death in 1564. "The diagnosis of osteoarthritis offers one plausible explanation for Michelangelo's loss of dexterity in old age and emphasises his triumph over infirmity as he persisted in his work until his last days," Lazzeri said

Courtesy: Times of India