The evidence is circumstantial, but researchers say it's strong enough to show that Michelangelo was a pretty short guy. Specifically, he stood 5-foot-2, max, according to a new study by Italian researchers in Anthropologie. And how did researchers determine this? By examining three shoes—a pair of a leather ones, plus a solo slipper—believed to have belonged to the artist, reports Live Science. Based on their measurements, the researchers from the Forensic Anthropology, Paleopathology and Bioarchaeology Research Center in Italy concluded that Michelangelo stood no taller than 5-2. The factoid comes with an immediate qualification, notes Smithsonian. While 5-2 is short by today's standards, it wasn't far from the norm when Michelangelo lived 500 years ago.
The average height of a man in Italy today is a shade over 5-8, and European men in the 15th and 16th centuries were generally shorter than their modern counterparts. Michelangelo lived from 1475 to 1564. Artnet News notes that an acclaimed work written in Michelangelo's day—Giorgio Vasari's The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects—described him as being as being of “middle height, wide across the shoulders, but the rest of his body in good proportion." The matter could be settled more conclusively by an examination of Michelangelo's remains, which lie in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence, Italy. But they have never been exhumed and studied, and Smithsonian doesn't see that happening anytime soon. (Read more Michelangelo stories.)