Michelangelo’s frescoes of the Sistine Chapel
The sculptor and painter Michelangelo spent four years of his life on scaffolding under the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel painting probably the most famous frescoes in the world with his interpretation of the history of creation. Prior to this, a simple starry sky had adorned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
Faced by the challenge presented by the structural architecture, he developed outstanding painting techniques, setting new standards for future generations of painters – up to the present day.
A DIFFERENT VIEW allows for the first time an unprecedented closeness to the magnificent works of Michelangelo, the originals of which adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at a height of 22 meters. Far away from the enormous streams of visitors to the Sistine Chapel, visitors here have the opportunity to take in the imposing paintings at their leisure and allow them to soak in.
Under the license of the Vatican Museums, the images were reproduced and transferred to special fabric webs. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction and gives a glimpse of the works, which, apart from Michelangelo, has so far been given to only a few people.
The idea for the exhibition comes from the producers Thomas Ebel and Christina Marotzke.
Many years ago, Christina had the wish to take the magnificent Sistine Chapel frescoes “down from the ceiling.”
The Team then sought a way of fulfilling their wish and making the Sistine Chapel frescoes available to the general public.
It was a fortunate coincidence that brought the producers into contact with Prelate Dr. Karl Jüsten. The Director of the Catholic Office in Berlin was presented with an initial draft of the exhibition concept. Dr. Jüsten recognized the potential of this idea and established contact with the Vatican Museums. There, E4Y received enthusiastic support from the church historian, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Brandmüller. Thanks to this contact a license agreement was concluded with the Vatican Museums, enabling a whole series of photo slides to be made available that had been slumbering in the museums’ archives for many years.
Following the restoration of the Sistine Chapel between 1982 and 1994, a Japanese team received permission to film the newly resplendent Chapel. Photo slides were made of the frescoes in a 200 x 250 mm format, which since then have been guarded by the Vatican Museums like a treasure – which is indeed what they truly are.
With the utmost care, this treasure was handed over to the photographer Roland Ursprung. He was commissioned to fundamentally process the photos and transfer them to a reproducible state. As can be imagined, the images of the vaulted ceiling were lacking both in perpendicularity and color consistency. In addition, the slides had become heavily scratched as the result of dust deposits. Ursprung mastered this challenge by the use of complicated, expensive and sensitive digitalization technology.
In addition: the Quattrocento frescoes
The so-called Quattrocento frescoes have adorned the walls of the Sistine Chapel since the 15th century. As an addition to – and to complete – our exhibition “Michelangelo – A DIFFERENT VIEW“, these impressive frescoes await visitors in the entrance.
The scenes from the life of Jesus and that of Moses painted by Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli provide additional historical background and allow for a deeper insight into this epoch. Michelangelo encountered these works before starting work on the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
New perspectives after more than 500 years
Over the centuries, a thick veil of dust and soot settled over the sculptures and paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Only outlines of the breathtaking frescoes on the ceiling were still recognizable. It was only possible to recapture their original condition by long and delicate restoration work in the 1980s and 1990s.
Visitors to the Vatican Museums, however, are only offered an overall impression of the frescoes on the walls and ceiling. Michelangelo’s true masterpieces are situated at a height of 22 meters in the central vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. From this distance, it is impossible to admire his wonderful legacy in all its splendor and detail.
For the first time, the elaborate reproductions of the paintings in the exhibition “Michelangelo – A Different View” allow visitors an almost intimate closeness to the magnificent frescoes of the Florentine genius. The transfer of the motifs to special fabric panels has created an exceptional connection to the originals – both in the haptics and in the color rendering. In the process, the exhibition by no means attempted to reproduce the Sistine Chapel. Instead, it aimed to provide observers with a view of Michelangelo’s technique which is still setting standards today as well as to develop a very personal perspective of the depictions and intentions of the artist.
Magnet for visitors: “Michelangelo – A DIFFERENT VIEW“
The exhibition allows visitors to view the paintings from a distance of only two meters with no time constraints.
Numerous motifs were painted into the vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel – i.e. in elongated form. From a distance, however, they appear in credible proportions. To reproduce these proportions while depicting the works of Michelangelo’s exceptional achievement in perspective posed the greatest challenge for the reproduction.
The visitors to the exhibition are provided with a view of the frescoes which up to this point had only been accorded to Michelangelo himself and – at a later date – the restorers in the Sistine Chapel. It is only from close up that it is possible to examine and understand Michelangelo’s work and thus understand it in a new way and from an individual perspective.
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