The Sistine Chapel

I had the good fortune to see this remarkable thing recently. And I thought as I was in the Sistine Chapel something I’ve thought before and have probably pontificated about here at pontification central. (Checking I find this post for instance). Why are there not more facsimiles in the world.  Lots of things can be made as well a second time as the first.  Now a facsimile Sistine Chapel would not be the same as the real thing, but with some careful attention one ought to be able to produce something that is pretty similar to the real experience of being inside it and looking around. It’s not that large.

Anyway, the real inspiration for pecking this post out is this link which my friend (and occasional Troppodillian) Tony Harris sent me. As a choir sings in the background you can ‘tour’ the glories of the Sistine Chapel’s frescoes, zoom in and around them. There are some advantages over being there in the flesh, namely that you can really look closely at the work. Anyway, load it up and have a look and a listen and gorge yourself on its magnificence. I’ve just been doing it and reading a few of his poems. I’ll put one below the fold for you – translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

The course of my long life hath reached at last,
In fragile bark o’er a tempestuous sea,
The common harbor, where must rendered be
Account of all the actions of the past.
The impassioned phantasy, that, vague and vast,
Made art an idol and a king to me,
Was an illusion, and but vanity
Were the desires that lured me and harassed.
The dreams of love, that were so sweet of yore,
What are they now, when two deaths may be mine, -
One sure, and one forecasting its alarms?
Painting and sculpture satisfy no more
The soul now turning to the Love Divine,
That oped, to embrace us, on the cross its arms.

5 thoughts on “The Sistine Chapel

  1. What is the translation from ?- its beautiful and strangely familiar.

    re facsimiles actually there are were a lot of ‘copys’- it was quite common for Titian for example after doing something like the venus of urbarno which got a lot of attention , to organise his workshop to produce a number of close variations , in order to exploit the “I want one of those” market.

    On the other hand facsimiles of things like the whole Sistine chapel would need a fair bit of dosh, the sort of person who can afford it would provably want something more unique to him/her, no?

  2. Michelangelo wrote in Italian – not Latin – as I understand it if that’s what you’re asking.

    On facsimiles, the whole period was one in which great artists ‘studios’ did a lot of the hackwork and could also run off quite a few variations – which they tended to do rather than facsimiles.

    On the dosh required to reproduce things, I remember hearing an interview with Bertrand Russell where he suggested that a lot of films could be made – historical dramas – from the education budget – which I think is a great idea. If it was taken seriously you’d actually take the presentation of the period seriously. Today’s commercial feature films might (sometimes) make a bit of a fetish of verisimilitude regarding costumes, buildings etc, but the people are mostly Just Like Us. Whereas history should be to show how, yes, they were just like us in one way, but also to show how the past is another country, and how subtly things were different. Films do this almost not at all. Cleopatra is just Liz Taylor in drag.

    Anyway that was a bit of an aside. There are lots of budgets one could get it from. The education budget is one, the arts budget is another. Then there’s tourism. If you plonked a serious replica of the interior of the Sistine Chapel in Bendigo I expect you’d get more tourism there than the same expenditure in advertising. Then there are sectors outside the government – in this case you could go to the church and see if they’d want to be part of funding it. And there’s the not for profit and the for profit sector.

    Still there are limits. I’m not sure I’d want to see the facsimile in Los Vegas . . .

  3. The poem is by Michelangelo? , i wonder if john Done knew it, there is a sort of echo.

    Actual copies were not uncommon There are two Leonardos- from memory the Madonna of the rocks- one in paris the other in london , and great argument as to ‘authenticity’.

    BTW if you can get up to Sansepolcro, the Piero della Francesca Resurrection is the best pic i have ever seen.

    • The Leonardo Madonnas of the Rocks are not copies – so much as two versions of a scene. There are significant differences between the two.

      I’ve never understood what’s so good about that Piero painting – perhaps I’d understand it if I saw it ‘live’ as it were, rather than a print.

      • As I sure you know making copies and transcriptions was the basis of an artists education in those days, it is the best way of becoming original.

        As for piero , now is a good time to see (assuming the place is open -it is italy :) )…. Its one of those pics for quiet solitary wonder , in the peak season the place tends to be too full of pilgrims.

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