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  • Tessa Pacelli

Bookworms of the Sistine Chapel

We had an amazing time this week at The Sistine Chapel Exhibition, here in NYC. For those who don't know, the purpose of this exhibit is to showcase life-sized close ups of Michaelangelo's frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and walls:


Fun fact: Michaelangelo got terrible back aches painting the ceiling - so bad he wrote a poem about it!


If you’ve ever been to the Vatican to visit this spectacular jewel of Renaissance art, you know that these masterpieces are (1) Really high up (2) Cover every inch of the chapel and (3) Are utterly overwhelming in their splendor. Thus, they are not particularly accessible in detail to the everyday art lover:


Little people, BIG art! (SOURCE: INDEPENDENT UK)

When I visited, a dozen plus years ago to boot, the Sistine Chapel was one stop in an almost month - long parade of spectacular art sights (in Florence, Milan, Venice, Rome ...), making it nearly impossible to truly absorb. So it was very special to appreciate life-sized pictures of these masterpieces up close:


The Ceiling features five themes:

- Creation

- The Ancestors of Christ

- Stories of Noah

- Adam and Eve

- The Prophets and Sybils


They are all awe-inspiring, of course, but I want to highlight the lesser known of the themes: the prophets and sybils (female prophets). They are my favorites for two reasons. First, each and every one of them is reading!! Friends, this is like a Rennaisance PSA reminding people to visit the library! As a writer, and lifelong reader, I can only say, Michaelangelo, I heart you.

But that's not all. Each of these monumental figures radiates the most amazing "everyday" emotion. The Prophet Isaiah looks EXACTLY like some pesky angel interrupted him at a really good part; note his finger in the book, holding his spot:


It can't wait five minutes???

The Delphic Sybil seems to be sneaking a few pages in between checking to see if dinner's ready:


I'm pretty sure I smell something burning ...

Many of the rest are just epically, monumentally engrossed, to the point of turning away from the viewer:


The Persian Sybil

The Cumaean Sybil

Does this book have an index?

It's almost like they are looking for God on the printed page ... Oh, wait ...



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