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Ovation: Bringing New Light To The Sistine Chapel.

09/26/2014

Vatican Pope Conclave RulesWe have some unique artwork displayed on the walls of our home.  We try to decorate with art from local artists or family photos in unusual frames.  We’ve bought a couple pieces at auction and we’ve hung other pieces that were given to us as gifts.  But one of our favorite ways to collect art is to scour antique stores.  Finding just the right piece of vintage art can be a rewarding adventure when redecorating.  Sometimes the old frames themselves are architectural masterpieces and can pose as art on their own.

Last weekend we took one of our finds to a local hobby shop to have it worked on.  It is a beautiful watercolor, an original painting on a parchment paper that had been glued and taped to a board and mounted matted inside a simple frame and underneath a very old piece of glass.  The matt around the beautiful scene had at some time in the painting’s history suffered a bit of water damage.  The painting was not harmed and the beautiful old wavy glass that covered it was not harmed in any way.

As the man at the custom framing counter carefully took our find apart and removed the old matt, we discovered that the original watercolor painting had faded quite a bit over the years.  He patiently helped us select a new matt to replace the old one, trying not to update the look and feel of the original work but to restore it to what it must have looked like when the artist or former owner originally hung it on their wall to enjoy in their home.  We selected a frame that is a bit larger and more substantial than the simple frame we had purchased from the antique store but chose the same basic color and style.  All the while we talked about the quality of the painting and how the fact that the colors had faded didn’t detract from its beauty.  In fact, had we not removed the old matt, we would never have known the colors had even faded.

Birth Of The Universe BeliefsMichelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel of Rome have been protected from fading for more than five hundred years, shielded from the elements and protected from millions of visitors each year.  His masterpiece has proven highly resilient and only one small piece is missing … part of the sky in the ceiling panel depicting Noah’s escape from the great biblical flood.  This section of painted plaster fell to the floor following an explosion at a nearby gunpowder factory in 1797.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel will be illuminated by 7,000 LED lights because visitors have been complaining that current lighting is so bad they can’t make out details of the artwork.  Technicians have spent a year testing the new lights, which will be about five times brighter, to make sure they won’t damage Michelangelo’s work.  The new lighting system will cost about $2.4 million, but the Vatican estimates it will be up to eighty times more efficient.

An average increase of 500,000 visitors per year since 2011 is being attributed to the “Francis effect” of the popular new pope.  And, since the Sistine Chapel is the most popular tourist attraction in Vatican City, keeping all those folks happy is good for business.  The one thing the new lights won’t help, however, is all the extra bacteria the additional people bring with them which can damage the artwork.  So a more powerful air-conditioning system is also in the works.

A comparison of our old watercolor and High Renaissance masterpiece by Michelangelo is ludicrous.  Still, although we have no way of knowing for certain, without engaging the services of an art historian or appraiser, the age or value of our old water color, with its new matt and frame we’ll hang it proudly on our wall.  And we’ll have a marvelous story to tell about how we discovered it, restored it and made it our own.  It’s not the Sistine Chapel, but it’s our own little art restoration project and we intend to enjoy it for a long time to come.

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4 Comments
  1. The lighting is great. The problem with the frescoes is the CO2 and dust and body sweat that the visitors bring in which are all damaging to the paintings on the chapel:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/11/us-vatican-sistine-idUSKBN0EM20220140611

    http://www.religionnews.com/2013/10/17/sistine-chapel-pollution-may-lead-fewer-visitors/

    Like

  2. I’m looking for art for my home and hadn’t considered antique shops. Great idea!

    Like

    • You’ll be surprised by some of the unusual, and beautiful, things you’ll find! Happy hunting!

      (FYI … we went to pick our project up last night and they forgot to use the original, 100-year-old wavy/bubbly glass that we had brought them! They were quite apologetic and happy to start over, but now we have to wait another ten days to get it back.)

      Like

  3. Thanks for sharing. Good work. Compliments and greetings from northern Italy.

    Like

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