Hey Presto, Here’s A Fresco!
A holiday to Rome would be incomplete without a trip to the Sistine Chapel. The crown jewel of the capital’s Vatican City. The chapel is famed for its exquisite architecture and stunning painted walls and ceilings. These paintings are called frescos and, no, this has nothing to do with eating outdoors!
A fresco is a method of mural painting where an artist paints directly onto plaster which can either be damp, known as a buon fresco, or dry plaster, which is known as a secco fresco. The Sistine Chapel is chock-a-block with fancy frescos, each a piece of art in its own right.
Image by: Randy OHC
Like the rest of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel is a beacon of grandeur and decadence, and each carefully painted fresco commands attention, luring visitors’ eyes away from tapestries and statuesque candelabras, up to the ceiling, made famous by one of Italy’s most well-known exports, Michelangelo.
It’s fair to say that Renaissance lad Michaelangelo liked to keep busy.
When he wasn’t building 14ft statues of ridiculously toned young men, penning love poems or engineering feats of architectural ingenuity, he was painting frescos in the Sistine Chapel.
Although he considered himself a sculptor at heart, Michelangelo wasn’t fussed about fascias and soffits. He was more interested in the curves of the ceiling, perfecting the outlines of his numerous painted figures and creating cunning trompe-l’œils to give the illusion of stonework and pedentives.
He spent four years working on the chapel’s ceiling frescos, which he designed himself. This mural included over 300 figures across a whopping 5,000 square feet of ceiling – that’s one large canvas!
Although the magnificent ceiling was Michelangelo’s handiwork, he cannot lay claim to being the only artist to lend his skills to the building. There is in fact a smorgasbord of frescos within the chapel, including paintings by Boticelli, Rosselli and Piero Pergino, who could all be found queuing up in the 16th century version of Hobbycraft to buy their paints and brushes on a Monday morning.
Despite the highly religious significance of the chapel, the detailed frescos within it are a celebration of a dying art, acknowledged by artists and historians alike.
Every surface is dripping with opulent scenery, making it a feast for the eyes of the millions of tourists that come from across the globe to fulfil their fresco fantasies.
There are of course many other venues around the world that boast spectacular frescos – the art form has been knocking about since the Egyptians were doing their thing – but the Sistine Chapel is truly the greatest of them all.
Disagree? Tell us about the most stunning ceilings you’ve ever seen…
Estelle Page is a thirty something interior designer, loving life with her husband and two kids! When she’s not redecorating her home for the 100th time, you’ll find her taking in the scenery at a local garden show or being inspired by the antiques and decor at a nearby National Trust home. In her spare time she regularly writes blogs for Deeplas cladding.