The great beauty: emotions in front of Michelangelo’s Moses
A team of researchers of the Sapienza University of Rome has analyzed, for the first time, the brain activity of visitors while observing a work of art live instead of looking at it on a computer screen. The experiment was carried out in front of the sculpture of Moses by Michelangelo in the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) in Rome.
The study, coordinated by Fabio Babiloni and carried out in cooperation with the university spin-off Brain Signs, showed that visitors’ suggestion in front of the masterpiece by Michelangelo differs according to the place from which the observer looks at the statue.
In particular, researchers demonstrated that the highest level of emotion is reached when people directly observe the face and eyes of Moses, that is from a lateral position in relation to the statue. Conversely, the level of emotion is significantly lower when the statue is frontally observed and Moses does not meet the visitors’ gaze.
The results confirm previous observations by the same group of researchers of the Department of physiology and pharmacology of the Sapienza University in Rome on visitors looking at Titian’s or Jan Vermeer’s paintings exposed at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome last year, and could pave the way to a greater understanding of how the contemplation of works of art induces emotions in the brain. For the Moses experiment, researchers were supported by Cesare Cundari and Gian Maria Bagordo of the Department of history, drawing and restoration of the Sapienza University of Rome.