When it comes to Michelangelos, the artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is only my second favorite. My third favorite was a mediocre pizza joint by my aunt’s house when I was a kid, but they closed in the 1990s, so really, the competition of “Who’s the best Michelangelo?” is only between the Renaissance artist and the nunchuck-wielding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
While I admit that I have advanced knowledge of the Ninja Turtle and limited knowledge of the actual human being, from my perspective, the turtle is just way better, surely? He’s trained in martial arts! He knows how to throw a good pizza party! That other Michelangelo, all I know for sure about him is that he painted a whole bunch of dicks.
But how many dicks? Well, let’s find out!
The first of Michelangelo’s dicks is undeniably the strangest. I’ll get to David and other, more recognizable nether regions later, but the first known painting done by Michelangelo was completed when he was just 12- or 13-years-old. Based on the engraving The Temptation of Saint Anthony by the artist Martin Schongauer, Michelangelo painted this around 1488:
Not seeing any penises? Well, neither did I, at first, but then I took a closer look at all those demons attacking that old dude, and I found this:
Yes, that’s a very pointy demon penis, complete with weird balls, a gaping asshole and some ass-eyes to boot. Frankly, I’m glad that the style Michelangelo would become known for was nothing like this, as I don’t think I could take counting up hundreds of demon cocks.
Next up is The Young Archer, which looks much more like what we’d expect from a young Michelangelo, who is believed to have sculpted it around age 16. What’s impressive about The Young Archer is that you can already see Michelangelo’s immense talent when it comes to the human form. “He was good at everything really, it wasn’t just nudity,” says art history professor William E. Wallace, author of Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and His Times and several other Michelangelo books. “Michelangelo painted, he sculpted, he was an architect. There was something really remarkable about him — he had a gift — but he also worked really hard at it.”
Unfortunately, the archer is missing his little arrow, it having fallen off sometime between 1492 and 1996, when the sculpture was rediscovered. So, despite young Michelangelo’s obvious talent, it’s hard to say how refined his dick-carving skills were at this point.
Next we turn to The Battle of the Centaurs from 1492. This piece is chock-full of naked dudes, but only three of them have their penises visible. One of which, by the way, is the penis of Socrates! Later on, Michelangelo did a similar piece called Battle of Cascina, which also had a ton of naked guys fighting, but only four of which have visible penises.
Michelangelo’s next dick is yet another lost dick, but this one went missing along with its owner, the Roman demigod Hercules. Michelangelo’s Hercules was sculpted in 1492 at the palace of Lorenzo de Medici. In 1529, it was gifted to the King of France and was last seen in 1713, when it may have been destroyed. Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea of what it looked like thanks to drawings of it, so we do know for sure that it included Hercules’ less-than-herculean love muscle.
The subject matter of Hercules also offers a bit of insight as to why Michelangelo sculpted so many nudes to begin with. As Wallace explains, “The reason why nudity is so common in Michelangelo’s work is that it was common in antiquity. ‘Renaissance’ means ‘rebirth’ and the artists of the Renaissance were looking back toward Greece and Rome, but mostly Rome for Michelangelo.”
Next up is some Christ cock! I’m not a religious person, but I feel like most of the depictions I’ve seen of Jesus on the cross have him wearing a loincloth, which raises the question: Was Jesus crucified naked, or in a loincloth? No matter, that’s an investigation for another day.
Over the course of his career, Michelangelo sculpted and painted Jesus a lot; there were, however, only a few times where Jesus had his dick out. All told, he sculpted adult Jesus’ dick six times and baby Jesus’ baby dick three times (also, one of the baby Jesus sculptures includes a naked toddler of John the Baptist, so that’s another one). Michelangelo also painted Jesus’ dick twice. Jesus was depicted in much larger works as well — like the Sistine Chapel — but right now I’m just talking about the pieces where Jesus is the main subject.
At this point, I should also note that there are many drawings by Michelangelo that include frontal male nudity — including that of Jesus — but I’m only counting Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings (the only exception being the already-mentioned Battle of Cascina, which is considered a completed cartoon). The reason why I’m not counting the drawings is that Michelangelo’s drawings are usually incomplete works that he simply created to plan for something larger. He would even go as far as to destroy many of his drawings so that no one would see his works in progress. Thus, out of deference to Michelangelo’s wishes, I will not be counting any of his sketched penises or any of his models made of clay or wood, as they were all just for planning bigger stuff.
Next up is some more Cupid cock. Aside from the archer that I noted earlier — which might have been Cupid — Michelangelo sculpted a sleeping Cupid and a standing Cupid in the late 1490s, both of whom had their dicks out. That brings us to 24 dicks total.
Then there’s the sculpture of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, from 1497. Bacchus’ penis chipped off some centuries ago, but it still counts. Even more interesting is the presence of a little goat man in this sculpture, who also has his dick out. Fortunately, the goat-man’s dick is far less frightening than that earlier demon dick.
Now, finally, for dick number 27, we arrive at the David. To offer a bit of background, Wallace again refers to Michelangelo’s Roman influence. “Michelangelo had just come from Rome after five years looking at ancient sculptures, and the David was a carving of an ancient statue all over again, just in a giant size.” Fortunately, though so many of Michelangelo’s sculptures have degraded over the years, a great deal of care has been taken to preserve the David, so the statue — and its penis — remain intact.
Snark is my natural inclination for so much of this kind of stuff, but the David is such a renowned, extraordinary and beautiful piece of art that I feel like an asshole just trying to come up with a joke here. So, let’s just admire the David and its still-attached penis:
Michelangelo sculpted three nude slaves as well, and though it’s lost today, there was also a small bronze David that Michelangelo completed around the same time as the big one, bringing the running dick total to 31.
Here’s where shit gets nuts. Apparently, unsatisfied with just sculpting one dick at a time, Michelangelo decided to up his dick-art game by painting a bunch of penises all at once. The first of these great dick feasts is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which, along with the David, is Michelangelo’s most famous work.
To count all of these dicks, I had to be methodical. Between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted more than 5,000 square feet of the Sistine Chapel, which includes 49 different individual scenes, so, to make sure I didn’t miss a prick, I had to go one section at a time and mark each penis, then count them up at the end. This took hours of examination, as each section had to be looked up and scoured for dick separately. At the end of it all, I counted a total of 57 penises on just the ceiling, which wasn’t the only part of the chapel that Michelangelo painted.
In addition to those 57 dicks, there are another seven dicks at the lower edges of the ceiling and another three dicks in the chapel’s lunettes, which are the sections Michelangelo painted over the windows.
Finally, Michelangelo returned to paint more of the Sistine Chapel in 1534, creating a huge mural named The Last Judgment. The dicks here are especially notable, as Wallace explains, “The nudity in The Last Judgment was an issue from the beginning, and people did object to it, feeling it was inappropriate. On the other hand, if you think of what the subject is, it makes sense. It’s the last judgment, and on the day of the last judgment, you’re going to be judged before God and you’re not going to go with a tuxedo on, you’re going to stand naked before him. But, because some people objected to it, some of the nudes were painted over, even in Michelangelo’s lifetime.”
On the current version of The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, I counted a mere 17 penises, which is kind of underwhelming considering that the painting appears to be of hundreds of naked dudes. But, fortunately, before any of the changes were made, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese commissioned a copy of the work in 1549 by artist Marcello Venusti. Venusti’s copy now resides in the National Museum of Capodimonte, and most art historians believe it offers a true representation of Michelangelo’s original.
By examining Venusti’s copy, I located another 19 visible dicks in addition to those 17 that remained. That brings the total number of dicks that Michelangelo painted in the Sistine Chapel to 103, and if you add that to the running total, Michelangelo’s got 134 dicks so far (and we’re not done yet).
Michelangelo’s final work was the Rondanini Pietà, which was a sculpture of a nude Christ along with the Virgin Mary. I already counted that back in my Jesus tally, so the only things left to count are the penises from Michelangelo’s final two paintings, The Conversion of Saul and The Crucifixion of St. Peter, both of which are in the Vatican. However, for both of these pieces, their degree of dick is difficult to discern. For one, they both hang in an area of Vatican City that’s off-limits to visitors, which means there aren’t a ton of clear, hi-res pictures of these murals. Also, they were left to decay for a few centuries, and when they were finally restored, it once again seems that some loincloths were added to hide Michelangelo’s original nudity.
The best guess, though, is that The Crucifixion of St. Peter originally had one exposed penis and The Conversion of Saul had four (which I discerned from a copy of it). All told, that means that, in his 88 years on planet Earth, Michelangelo sculpted and painted a total of 145 penises that were part of a finished work.
Honestly, when I started on this venture, I figured that there would have been hundreds, if not thousands of Michelangelo dicks out there. But when I consider the fact that Michelangelo was primarily a sculptor and that most of his works took years to create, 145 penises is certainly not too shabby.
That said, this is yet another area where I wonder if Michelangelo the Renaissance painter falls short of the heroic reptile named after him. After all, Michelangelo the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is a teenager, and he’s been a teenager since 1984, so, if you total up all the dicks he’s inevitably graffitied all over the walls of New York City’s sewers in the past 36 years, he might, once again, outdo Michelangelo, Renaissance (cock) master.