Unprecedented ‘The Sistine Chapel’ Book Displays the Masterpiece Like Never Before

Michelangelo famously spent four years lying on scaffolding with his palette and brushes to create a masterpiece: the famed Sistine Ceiling. The frescoed vaulted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace now attracts over 6 million visitors every year who crane their necks to see the over 300 Biblical scenes rendered by the painter's brush. No photos are allowed and it can be difficult to see the details of the lofty scenes. Now, a five-year collaboration between publishers Callaway Arts & Entertainment, Italy’s Scripta Maneant, and the Vatican has produced a magnificent three-volume book to display the artwork in never-before-seen detail.

At 822 pages, The Sistine Chapel weighs in at 75 pounds of art history. Two photographers worked much like Michelangelo did—using scaffolding constructed nightly after the tourists emptied the chapel. Over 65 nights, they collectively photographed 270,000 images which were then digitally stitched together. The photos are rendered through state-of-the-art color printing so that each image matches the tones of the original. Unlike the in-person experience, readers can see brushstrokes, cracks, and small details.

Volume one is entitled The Frescoes of the 15th Century which line the walls. You will find the Old Testament and New Testament paintings of Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli, and Mateo Perez de Alesio, among others. Volume two, The Ceiling, focuses on the famous lofty frescoes. Lastly, volume three, The Last Judgement, contains the artwork behind the altar. Also by Michelangelo, the fresco is famous for (among other things) featuring the flayed skin of the artist himself, 25 years after he began work on the ceiling.

If you would like to see these works up close, The Sistine Chapel is a pricey but impressive addition to any art history book collection. Costing $22,000 for the set, the books are bound in silk and only 600 are in English. The total print run in any language is 1,999 copies with no possibility for further print runs. While certainly a luxury, this book set is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get close to a masterpiece.

This three-volume, limited-run set of fine art books is a unique chance to explore the Vatican's Sistine Chapel in never-before-seen detail.

Only 600 English-language copies will be made available at $22,000 each.

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h/t: [Open Culture]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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