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Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel A Different View. The Creation of Adam.

 WINCHESTER.- The magnificent Sistine Chapel in the Vatican takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored the Roman building between 1477 and 1480. Just over a quarter of a century later in 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564) to paint the chapel’s huge ceiling. Such was the enormity of the task, it took the artist and his assistants four years to complete. 

Faced by the challenges of the structural architecture, he developed outstanding painting techniques, setting new standards for future generations of painters. The resultant frescoes changed the course of Western art and are regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments of human civilization. Unsurprisingly, Michelangelo’s work continues to draw millions of visitors to the Sistine Chapel, 500 years after they were painted.


Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel A Different View. The Creation of Adam.

However, few will have had the privilege of being able to marvel close up at Michelangelo’s incredible figures of saints, sibyls, prophets and the ceiling’s centre piece, The Creation of Adam. 

Now that is all set to change in Winchester this summer, with the UK premiere of a ground-breaking new exhibition officially licensed by the Vatican Museums - Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: A Different View.


Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel A Different View. The Creation of Adam.

This show allows unprecedented closeness to the magnificent works of Michelangelo which adorn the chapel ceiling, normally 22 metres above visitors’ heads. Working in partnership with the Vatican Museums, the frescoes have been photographed, reproduced at high resolution and transferred onto special fabric webs. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction of the ceiling and gives visitors a unique opportunity for an otherwise impossible close-up view of his brushwork. 

The exhibition is split across the three Winchester venues due to its sheer size: the visitor journey will begin at City Space on the ground floor of Winchester Discovery Centre, continue upstairs in The Gallery and finish at the 13th century Great Hall, home of the symbolic Medieval Round Table, where a giant 6 metre x 6 metre panel of The Last Judgment will be on display.


Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View. Lybian Sybil.

On display will be a series of panels that vividly reveal how Michelangelo used bright colours for the Sistine Chapel to make the figures more easily visible from the floor. He was originally commissioned only to paint the twelve apostles, but persuaded the Pope to let him paint scenes and individuals of his own choosing. Consequently, the chapel is peopled with over 300 characters from the Bible. By separating the frescoes into a series of panels, the exhibition allows art lovers to closely study particular aspects of Michelangelo’s work, rather than be overwhelmed by the Sistine’s 460m2 (5000 square feet) of frescoes. 

Also featuring as an integral part of the exhibition is the chapel’s depiction of The Last Judgement, which was painted 25 years after the ceiling (1536-1541) and completed when Michelangelo was almost 67 years old. The work sparked a furious row between the artist and Cardinal Carafa, who objected to the depictions of naked figures, and led the notorious ‘fig-leaf campaign’ to cover up the immoral and obscene aspects of the painting. Michelangelo also included a self-portrait of himself, albeit in a somewhat gruesome manner - as the flayed skin held by St Bartholomew. 


Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View. Erythean Sybil.

Some years ago, while a TV documentary was being made during the cleaning of the chapel’s ceiling, The Sunday Times art critic, Waldemar Janusczak, wrote: “Under the bright, unforgiving lights of television, I was able to encounter the real Michelangelo. I was so close to him I could see the bristles from his brushes caught in the paint; and the mucky thumbprints he'd left along his margins… I also enjoyed his sense of humour, which, from close up, turned out to be refreshingly puerile. If you look closely at the angels who attend the scary prophetess on the Sistine ceiling known as the Cumaean Sibyl, you will see that one of them has stuck his thumb between his fingers in that mysteriously obscene gesture that visiting fans are still treated to today at Italian football matches." 

“Every year, 4 million people visit the Sistine Chapel to view the magnificent frescoes on its ceiling,” commented Paul Sapwell, Chief Executive at Hampshire Cultural Trust, which operates The Gallery and City Space. “We are thrilled to be able to bring the UK premiere of this ground-breaking exhibition to Winchester and to give visitors the time to contemplate and enjoy Michelangelo’s breath-taking works at their leisure, far away from the streams of visitors to the chapel itself in Rome."

Cumaean Sibyl

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View. Cumaean Sibyl.