The Sistine Chapel in Reproduction versus the real Sistine Chapel

During the spring of 2021, I went to an exhibition consisting of large facsimiles of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel murals. I visited the actual Sistine Chapel back in 2007. My memories classified this hallowed building as an overwhelming event. As I have recounted to other people and keypunched in other articles, the Sistine Chapel ceiling murals had a three-dimensional effect that appeared as though the characters represented were about to descend towards you. Gods, prophets, and humans hover in mid-air, almost on the verge of heading towards a viewer lucky enough to visit such an incredible place.

This traveling exhibit’s reproductions did not carry the same imaginative overload. This two-room exhibition of large prints slightly replicated the Sistine Chapel‘s design with the Genesis scenes on the ceiling and the Sybils, Prophets, Ancestors of Christ, and other depictions such as Judith (plus her assistant) taking Holofernes’ severed head and David slaying Goliath on the buildings’ walls. There was The Last Judgement, but I will go into more detail in the next paragraph. That consisted of the first room. When I visited the actual Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, the place was crowded but not loud. While the original Chapel was full of people talking, this exhibition played soundtracks of choirs singing and other Classical pieces. Visiting the show, a second time, I realized the organizers used dramatic lighting to spotlight the large reproductions and obscure the building’s interiors. This called to mind Baroque-era paintings by artists such as Caravaggio.

While the first room had a small print of The Last Judgement, the second room had a gigantic Last Judgement reproduction that demanded the observer to look up and wander around and contemplate the details of this painting made immense. Michelangelo’s other Sistine Chapel works known as The Brazen Serpent plus The Punishment of Haman had spaces on walls next to the second Judgement painting, but I think they ended up overwhelmed by Judgement’s installation. While I saw the original mural, I could not walk around and take in the details the way I could in this show. Walking underneath Michelangelo’s late-period work, I found the placement of this second reproduction created this sense of chaos, with all the people floating around and taking in Christ’s return or ending up tormented by Hell’s demons.

All in all, I enjoyed the exhibition and the opportunity the show gave me to contemplate Michelangelo’s work up close and even observe the different facial expressions as rendered by such an amazing artist.

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