Bible

The Restoration of Michelangelos Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is recognized internationally as a treasure of Christian art, depicting scenes encompassing the time span of the Bible and linking the two major books of this holy document together in logical pictorial format. Although there had been numerous problems in determining just how to decorate the ceiling of this structure as well as problems in stabilizing this same ceiling, the primary question for many was in whether or not to trust Michelangelo, a sculptor, with something at once so important and so degrading. For while Michelangelo is widely celebrated today for his work on the chapel, ceiling work such as what he was requested to perform was typically the work of lesser artists. Once the details had been ironed out and egos soothed, Michelangelo went to work demonstrating his artistic genius. Original descriptions of the chapel indicated that the paintings were alive with brilliant color, stunning imagery and mastery of technique, but visitors to the chapel in the centuries since have felt the images must have lost some of this vigor. As the previous century discovered, this has indeed been the case as almost 500 years of soot, smoke and pollution have accumulated over the faces of the images while the underlying structure has been assaulted by the ravages of decay and erosion. As civilization approached its second millennium, the Vatican announced its intentions to restore Michelangelo’s ceiling and the other frescoes found within the chapel. While some hailed this move as a much-needed preservation effort, others argued any attempts at restoration would necessarily destroy the artistry and originality of its creator. The purpose of this document is to explore some of the controversy surrounding the Sistine Chapel, beginning with the problems of its original creation and then jumping forward to the issues involved in attempting to restore such an irreplaceable international treasure, finishing with an analysis of the outcome of the restoration efforts.

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