Sistine Chapel photographed in unprecedented detail

The photography, which was done using a combination of digital technology and LED lamps, allows people to better understand Michelangelo's painting techniques.
The photography, which was done using a combination of digital technology and LED lamps, allows people to better understand Michelangelo's painting techniques.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

VATICAN CITY • The famous frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, whose ceiling was painted by Michelangelo, can now be examined in minute detail thanks to an unprecedented photographic venture, the Vatican Museums have said.

By combining innovative digital technology and special LED lamps, photographers were able to make images measuring 43cm high by 1.2m wide.

The work includes 220 life-size images from the chapel, including elements of The Last Judgement, as well as frescoes painted on the walls by Pietro Perugino and Sandro Botticelli.

The three works, of which 1,999 copies have been made and will be sent to the world's most important libraries, all give a perfect rendition of the colours used by the Renaissance masters, said Italian art publisher Scripta Maneant.

"The project took place over five years," said the publisher's head of graphics Gianni Grandi as he unveiled the images inside the chapel late last Friday.

"The photographs let us understand Michelangelo's work, for example his use of striation or pointillism," he said, referring to various painting techniques.

People whose budgets are unlikely to meet the €12,000 (S$18,000) needed to buy the images can still visit the chapel itself, which averages some 20,000 visitors a day.

The frescoes were given a new lease of life in 2014 when they were illuminated with a revolutionary new lighting system.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2017, with the headline 'Sistine Chapel photographed in unprecedented detail'. Print Edition | Subscribe