Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Shoe size for Sr Buonarroti

Live Science has an article about a pair of shoes and one slipper that are traditionally believed to have belonged to Michelangelo. Researchers have now investigated what they might reveal about his height. If they are correct he was not tall even, I imagine, by sixteenth century standards. 

I will say am always wary of statements about average height in past centuries. When presented as if the rise in human height was or is expedential ( as it does seem to have been in the twentieth century ) then everyone would have been the size of a garden gnome at some point within historic time…..  Many factors came into play in terms of health in infancy and childhood, nutrition, living conditions, social background and such like. There is evidence to suggest the process may have seen a decline at certain stages, such as the earlier phases of the Industrial Revolution. At the time of the American Revolution the average rebel colonial was taller than the British troops they faced. A few years later in France it has been suggested that the aristos were a head taller than the peasantry before the guillotine reduced the height of not a few…

That all said the notion of a five foot two Michelangelo Buonarroti snarling at his patrons and rivals does perhaps make sense. A vertically challenged genius might well have the edginess that was part of his makeup.

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