God created man. The punishment of Adam and Eve. The Last Judgment.
These Biblical scenes were created in a magnificent mural on the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, the Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the High Renaissance, born in 1475. He sculpted two of his best-known white marble works, the compassionate Pieta and the handsome David, before the age of thirty.
While he had many creative pursuits, the Sistine Chapel was actually done on a dare by a rival who hoped he would fail at the monumental task. He not only succeeded, but he also made images that are the most reproduced in art history.
With free rein, he painted scenes from Genesis on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, and The Last Judgment on its altar wall from 1505 to 1512. Painting on scaffolds often on his back, the painstaking murals are breathtaking in their detail and narrative.
Stretching over 500 square meters of the ceiling with over 300 figures, Michelangelo used mostly male models – even for female figures – and based the image of God on himself.
An astonishing exhibit at The Armory Center allows viewers to experience these life-sized paintings up-close and from a never-before-seen perspective. If you have been to the actual Chapel, it is difficult to see the details from the ground.
With special expertise and care, the ceiling paintings have been reproduced in a unique way using licensed high-definition photos. Using a special printing technique that emulates the look and feel of the original paintings, which were restored and cleaned several years ago, visitors are given a chance to connect with the artwork in ways that were never before possible: seeing every detail, every brushstroke, and every color of the artist’s 34 frescoes.
Each painting on a large canvas is accompanied by informative signs, and audio guides are available for an even more in-depth experience. At its center are nine episodes from the Book of Genesis, divided into three groups: God’s creation of the earth; God’s creation of humankind and their fall from God’s grace; and lastly, the state of humanity as represented by Noah and his family.
On the ceiling are painted 12 men and women who prophesied the coming of Jesus, 7 prophets of Israel, and 5 Sibyls, prophetic women of the Classical world.
Among the most famous artworks are The Creation of Adam, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Deluge, the Prophet Jeremiah, and the Cumaean Sibyl.
“I heard about the exhibit while it was on display in Texas,” Armory Director Dr. Tom Pearson said during a media preview. “I was looking for some different kind of programming here so I flew to see it. I was astonished by the quality and detail. These are not projections, they are reprinted high-resolution images on large-scale boards that are the same size as the originals. It fills our entire main gallery. What appealed to me also is that there are audio guides and text to help tell the story of the art.”
This traveling exhibition is from the Los Angeles-based SEE Attractions to showcase the Sistine Chapel paintings. They are the organizers of other themed exhibitions that have toured the world such as Star Trek, King Tut, Titanic, Frida Kahlo, The Art of Banksy: Without Limits (now in Miami), The Museum of Failure, and many more.
Michelangelo himself was a Renaissance powerhouse though his personal life was one of abstinence and meager living. His biographer Paolo Giovio says, “His nature was so rough and uncouth that his domestic habits were incredibly squalid, and deprived posterity of any pupils who might have followed him.”
The exhibition will be on display in Montgomery Hall and the Greenfield and East Galleries through April 24. An amusing gift shop selection includes masks, laptop cases, printed water bottles, tote bags, t-shirts, and more.
Timed tickets are required and are available every 30 minutes. Visitors should allow one hour to see the full exhibit. The Armory Art Center, 811 Park Place, West Palm Beach, 33408. Online at armoryart.org.
Visit the Armory calendar for upcoming events. Learn more about the exhibition at chapelsistine.com.