Five hundred years ago, on Oct. 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly-finished vault frescoes. Current Pope Benedict led the celebrations which took place this past Wednesday.
I first saw the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican more than 30 years ago, when it was still dirty. Centuries of soot from braziers lit below had muddied Michelangelo's images to the point of obscurity in some spots. One of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance was being destroyed. Then an extensive and controversial restoration took place over several years, which presumably renewed the vibrancy of the artist's colours.
Well, there are concerns about the 500-year-old frescoes once again. The problem this time? Still humans. It's nearly always us folks. We breathe alot and sweat alot and the humidity affects the surface of of the paintings and degrades them.
Greed may have a part in this. Each visitor pays about $20 for admission and there are five million visits a year. The crowds are such that there is no opportunity to stop and ponder the scriptural stories which unfold far above. The poet Robert Hughes described the experience as a "rugby scrum." How unholy can you get?
Have you strained your neck peering up at the chapel ceiling? Would you be disappointed to be denied access for the greater good of the frescoes? Just carve up the biblical scenes with a chainsaw and sell them to the highest bidder?
New post on Groundling http://groundlingearthyheavenly.blogspot.ca/2012/11/tom-tomson-and-group-of-seven.html