Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stuff That Happened in the 80's: Sistine Chapel Restoration

In June of 1980, a restoration team started scrubbing approximately five hundred years of candle smoke residue off the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, revealing Michelangelo's famous frescoes as he (theoretically, anyway) originally painted them. The restoration process took up two whole decades--the wall frescoes, the last part of the chapel to be restored, were officially unveiled in 1999--and the results are pretty dramatic:

There had been previous attempts to restore the Sistine Chapel, but none this ambitious. By the way, did you know that art restorers in the 1600's cleaned unwanted mineral deposits off frescoes by rubbing them with bread? I sure didn't.

This modern restoration was also noteworthy because there were people who hated the crap out of it. Andrew Wordsworth, a reporter for a London-based newspaper called The Independent, complained that the restored artwork "has a curiously washed-out look, with pretty but flavourless coloring--an effect quite unlike that of Michelangelo's intensely sensual sculpture." My giant, paving-stone-like vintage copy of Chronicle of the 20th Century tells me that one particularly offended critic "compared the project to a nuclear disaster," thus proving that hyperbolic nerd rage is not unique to the internet generation.

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