Let There Be Light

One doesn’t generally associate cutting-edge technology with the Vatican. Nor does one think “efficiency” with regard to Michelangelo’s painstaking four year ordeal in completing the Sistine Chapel, a project he accepted very reluctantly and of which he wrote to a friend, “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture”. It’s interesting to wonder what old Mike would have thought of modern advancements and engineering that find their way into the arts, because this is pretty cool. The Sistine Chapel has just been outfitted with thousands of LED lights. Calibrated color temperatures, along with a climate control system, will help stave off the damage accumulated from six millions visitors a year, harmful UV rays, and poor air quality. Frescoes are more delicate than people realize. And while the Sistine has endured 500 years, it still has to be preserved with tender loving care. Check this out:


And if you want to read the entirety of Michelangelo’s pissed-off letter, click here, because it’s awesome 😆

19 thoughts on “Let There Be Light

  1. Jennifer says:

    A very interesting post (as always!). I’ve just watched the trailer for ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy’, a film I’ve only seen once when I was about 15 and can still recall how extremely moving it was. We visited the Vatican on our trip to Rome three years ago – like all places of great interest and significance, of course it’s now chock-full of tourists, so it’s hard to make visiting the Sistine Chapel a particularly moving experience. I can well imagine that the constant procession of visitors was having an effect on the frescoes, so good news that technology can now save them. The complaints of the newsreader that you can’t take photos in there reminded me of how surprised I was in American art galleries to find that you can take photos – you can stand next to Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ and have your photo taken with it, for example! No way can you do that in Europe, which must come as a bit of a shock to American visitors.

    We’re getting reports on TV about the incredible snowfall in NY State. Am assuming it’s not hit NYC, as you’ve not mentioned it. Doesn’t bode well for the forthcoming winter though!

    Rug up warm for Thanksgiving …

    Jennifer xx

    • artmodel says:


      I haven’t seen “The Agony and The Ecstasy” in years. I need to see it again now that you mention it!

      Yes, photography policies in American museums are very fair and reasonable, which is great. Keep in mind though that special exhibitions usually prohibit photos because they contain borrowed works. But museums freely allow pictures of their permanent collections. Just no flash. I’ve been reprimanded more than a few times for forgetting to turn off my flash!

      The New York State snow pounding was up in Buffalo which is of course nowhere near us down here in the Big Apple. But the cold blast is approaching, so they say. I should get my shoveling muscles in shape!

      Thanks so much for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the post!


  2. scultore says:

    After reading ‘Michelangelo’s pissed-off’ letter, my tribulations as an artist seen really light weight! We saw the Sistine chapel just after the first cleaning, and it was so different from what we had learned in the text books, bright vibrant colors, not a dark sedate palette.

    • artmodel says:


      That letter was one irritated tirade! You can certainly look to it periodically to put your own frustrations in perspective 😆

      Thanks for your comments and I hope to see you soon. Miss you, friend!


  3. Bill says:

    Great posting! It’s about art — but it’s also about money. Pope Francis inherited a financial system that was a total wreck. While the press has focused on his evident interpersonal skills, he was elected Pope largely due to his abilities as an administrator.

    So his intent is two-fold: 1) to address the issues of corruption that have been associated with the Vatican Bank 2) to raise money both to keep the Vatican afloat and to address the needs of the poor. The Vatican Museum generates $130 million/year — and the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel are the crown jewels among the Vatican’s assets. I think we can expect the Vatican to take every step to preserve and utilize that asset.

    Fortune magazine ran an extensive cover story on this topic recently — I’ve based this comment on the content of this source. It’s fascinating reading. http://fortune.com/2014/08/14/this-pope-means-business/

    • artmodel says:


      That is a really fascinating piece on the Pope, thanks so much for sharing it. Interesting to read about the Vatican’s operating budget and assets. I’ve bookmarked the article to read again. It’s true that the media coverage of Francis focuses mainly on his compassion and ability to “walk the walk”, which he surely does. But, like many, I wasn’t aware of his administrative acumen.

      Thanks again for your comments and the link. Much appreciated!


  4. dougrogers says:

    Dissappointed in video restrictions that don’t recognize information can and should be seen all over the world. Blocked in Canada.

    If you do get to visit the ceiling, look for the little dogs. And visit it with someone who knows some background and history about the panels.

    • artmodel says:


      I’m so sorry you couldn’t view the video. That stinks! I’m sure you can find another video somewhere that covers the story. I hope so!

      I haven’t been to the Sistine Chapel in over 20 years. I really hope I can get back there and check out the LED 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!


  5. Phineas says:

    The crossroads between science and art is a fascinating place. It’s neat to think they could custom-design the LEDs to enhance the colors while not rendering them falsely.

    • artmodel says:


      I always go into these “art meets technology” stories with a bit of skepticism, and then end up quite impressed! This is an especially good one.

      Thanks for commenting!


  6. Dave says:

    Thanks for another wonderful post, Claudia. I loved Michelangelo’s letter–I just read it aloud to my wife and daughters, and we all had a good laugh. Anyone who has ever become frustrated with a big project can relate so well to what he was feeling that day. I’m very glad he stuck with it.


    • artmodel says:


      The link to Michelangelo’s letter got a lot of clicks! It’s a hell of a read. I laughed too, and at the same time I felt bad for him because he was so clearly annoyed and suffering with the whole ordeal. But I’m glad he stuck with it too.

      Thanks for your comments!


  7. Grier Horner says:

    Thanks for including the link to the letter, Claudia. Michelangelo was as colorful in his writing as in his painting.

  8. Derek says:

    I fancied Michelangelo’s masterpiece. did you know that it took seven years to make that piece. That is unbelievable and what a true genius of fresco paintings. Pope Julius II commissioned this piece to Michelangelo I believe he made this piece around 1512

    I visited Rome to see the piece and it was one of the piece that I fancied especially the religious symbols there and the Creation of adam and other subjects involved.

    Here is some info regarding the Sisteen Chapel

    Happy Holidays luv to your family and a big hugs to all of you


    • artmodel says:


      Good to hear from you! I wrote in an above comment that it’s been over 20 years since I visited the Sistine Chapel. I hope I can see it again in my lifetime. Yes, the creation of Adam, is an iconic powerful image.

      Hope you are doing well and are getting in the spirit of the holidays. Thanks for your comments!


  9. artmodelandrew says:

    Claudia – As you know I’ve been trying to decide what color to paint my bathroom ceiling for some time now. Should I go for the Sistine Chapel look or maybe something more contemporary? Based on this post, I’ve decided to go with white.

    Bill – Thanks for the Fortune link re Pope as corporate turnaround executive. Really interesting angle.

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