Washington, July 22 : Italian Renaissance painter-sculptor Michelangelo was an ugly and rather unclean man, suggest a series of rare, contemporary portraits and writings on show in Florence.
The 'The Face of Michelangelo' exhibition, which runs at the museum of the Casa Buonarroti until the end of the month, also goes to indicate that the sculpture of David the artist made does not project his own beauty.
While art historians have long been sure that Michelangelo was not very beautiful, this is the first time that an exhibition is focusing on rumours of his horrible personal habits and lack of hygiene.
"Movies have always portrayed Michelangelo as an attractive, good-looking man. On the contrary, he wasn't handsome at all," Discovery News quoted exhibition curator Pina Ragionieri, the director of Casa Buonarroti, a house the artist bought in 1508, as saying.
"Most of all, he was perfectly aware of his ugliness and did not want to be portrayed. Indeed, he left no documented self-portrait," Ragionieri added.
The report also says that portraits by contemporary artists like painter-historian Giorgio Vasari showed Michelangelo's reluctance to pose for portraits.
A description by Vasari suggests that Michelangelo had been disfigured at age 17, when a fellow student smashed his nose.
It also suggests that Michelangelo had small eyes, large ears, thin lips and a forked, thin beard.
While Michelangelo appears elegantly dressed in posthumous portraits, he was said not to be a refined man in reality.
"He wore stockings of dogskin constantly for months together, so that when he took them off the skin of the leg often came away with them," according to Vasari.
Ragionieri said: "The fact that Michelangelo wasn't either handsome or particularly considerate about his personal care isn't so important. One should look at his letters and poems. They are his real, inner self-portraits."
The only known self-portrait of the artist is scratched into the margin of one of Michelangelo's poems, on show in Florence.
The image is a sort of caricature of the artist, done during the years he was painting the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
"This portrait reveals much about Michelangelo -- that he is right-handed and that, in his artist's mind, bodies need no clothes, including his own," Catterson said.
"Moreover, the drawing reveals Michelangelo's sense of humor since the figure he is drawing is not one of the massive heroic participants from the stories of Genesis that would ultimately populate the ceiling, but rather, one with cartoon-like features including huge eyes and hair standing straight up on ends," Catterson added.
An extended version of the exhibition, which will include several works never before seen in the United States, will travel to New York City shortly.
It will run at Syracuse University from Aug. 12 through Jan. 4, 2009.