Note from Grace: This is our associate editor Holly’s first post on the blog, so give her a round of applause!
My fascination with Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling goes way back. I remember hearing an elementary school classmate speak of the pope’s impatience with the painter to complete his masterpiece, and I envisioned the Pope rushing into the chapel and shouting up to Michelangelo, “Aren’t you done yet?! How much longer?” When I heard that Michelangelo lay on his back while painting the ceiling frescoes, I imagined paint drips on his face and sore arms. The myths and methods concerning the chapel ceiling have meant as much to me, sometimes more, as the frescoes themselves.
That’s why I’m enthralled with the exhibition “Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Swiss Guard,” which just happens to correspond with the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling (not to mention the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the founding of the Vatican Museums and the establishment of the Papal Swiss Guard).
Oh, the relics, papal rings and jewels, tiaras, embroidered silk vestments, swords, armor, mosaics, sculptures and paintings are appealing—and works by Bernini, Giotto and Guercino certainly command a draw—but what really grabs me is the recreated environment of the scaffolding near the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Imagine getting a Michelangelo’s-eye view of the ceiling frescoes (or copies thereof).
Check out “Vatican Spendors” for yourself at one of its three US venues:
• Through May 11
Florida International Museum
St. Petersburg, Florida
• May 31-Sept. 7
The Western Reserve Historical Society
• Opening Sept. 27
Minnesota History Center
St. Paul, Minnesota
Photo credit: Evergreen Exhibitions