Aly, Michelangelo's Son
Painting the layers of life... The astounding tale of a boy, high-born, but a slave; Christian, but with a Moslem name; an indomitable misfit, but one that defeated an evil empire's dreams of enslaving the world.
In 2012 something quite unexpected, and not entirely welcome, fell in my lap. I had long been intrigued by why we feel what we feel when we look at art, and I even participated in the birth of a new field of study – that of Bioaesthetics. It’s about our innate sensory triggers, triggers which when activated create emotions and urges… drives such as fear, and the need to take a step back — or the compulsion to reach out and fondle… or that simply make us stop in our tracks, freeze, hold our breaths and stare in astonishment - tension triggers, that is.
While trying to figure out how these work, I was seeking flexed curves, taut coils and tight twists, in particular in Michelangelo’s sculptures — or trying to, but being a bit inept in my choice of Google words, all I got was images of his ‘Creation of Adam’, painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Try as I might, God insisted in reaching out to spark Adam into life. And then the penny dropped – that pregnant gap between the two soaring fingers was just what I was looking for... it was the focal point of the entire ceiling, and maybe the most famous and most effective tension trigger in the history of Art.
And then everything went pear-shaped. I saw something else in the sky that most certainly should not have been there. Having done a fair amount of research into camouflage, I began to suspect that Michelangelo had hidden it there to get his own back on the patron who had forced him to paint his ceiling, His Holiness the Pope. So I did the standard digital enhancement one does when trying to crack that sort of disguise, and sure enough (although I rarely admit to this part of the story now), I was faced with what seemed to be… well, I can’t repeat politely what it was, enough to say it was floating in the clouds behind Adam’s hand.
Somewhat nonplussed, I did the same enhancement on that celebrated space between the two fingers, and to my amazement, there slowly emerged a string of letters. They spelt the word ‘chiave’, Italian for ‘key’. And it was indeed the key, the key to the utterly unimaginable, and shockingly true meaning of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. And that, and the far larger and even more devastating secret that then emerged, is what gave rise to my discovery of Aly.
But you wanted to know about me… well, just turned 70, a figure that I believe only when – despite all my efforts – I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Buried beneath the wrinkles, and beyond the wish to leave this world a better place, though, is a 20 year-old, determined to live life to the full, travel (and think) broadly, and be part of everything new and exciting. So — until a few years ago I lived on the Tropic of Capricorn, where I used to bump into porcupines and opossums when walking the Beagle or the Husky late at night; I would listen to cicadas; sigh and foment sedition when my children were told in school that a European 'discovered' Brazil; got told off by my wonderful partner for not wearing my hearing aid at the dinner table; and ate far too much chocolate. Now I live in Canada, and still walk the dogs, but stay away from the path by the stream at night where the skunks hang out. And the beavers — if those teeth could fell a tree, I'm keeping my distance from them too.
And the name? Peter Cane is a nom-de-plume, alas, but an illustrious one. I named myself after a little dog in one of Jan van Eyck’s paintings, one who heard everything that went on… loved everyone who was kind to him… and knew everybody’s secrets!