Thursday, July 18, 2019

See Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Winchester

Michelangelo's frescos and paintings for the Sistine Chapel are now on view in Winchester until the end of September.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a visit to view - it's a quite unique experience and by all accounts you can view Michelangelo's artwork much better than you can the originals in the Sistine Chapel. Certainly the only other people who have seen them this close up were Michelangelo and the restorers!
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” ​​​​Goethe 1787

Michelangelo's "The Last Judgement" in Winchester

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View is, in fact, licensed by the Vatican Museums.
Officially licensed by the Vatican Museums, the images were reproduced and transferred to special materials. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction and gives a glimpse of the works, which, apart from Michelangelo, has so far been given to only a few people.
The frescoes have been photographed, reproduced at high resolution and transferred onto special fabric webs to create highly detailed display panels. This technique allows a true-to-life reproduction of the ceiling and gives visitors a unique opportunity for an otherwise impossible close-up view of his brushwork.
The size of the Exhibition means that it can be found in three venues across Winchester 
  • you begin at the City Space on the ground floor of Winchester Discovery Centre where you get your ticket (£5 if bought online or £6 bought on the City Space - which gets you into every venue)
  • then continue upstairs in The Gallery where you can see the frescoes from the Sistine Chapel ceiling
  • finally you walk to the The Great Hall, where a giant 6 metre x 6 metre panel of The Last Judgement, painted 25 years after the ceiling, is on display.
Please note that the Great Hall operates different opening times to Winchester Discovery Centre: once redeemed at City Space, your ticket is valid for seven days for entry to the Great Hall.

The City Space

The City Space has the larger more complex paintings around the walls of the Chapel - plus a copy of the only known painting of Michelangelo.

Sermon on the Mount
These paintings were produced by various painters. Their reproductions are actually very much smaller than the original and seem to be on some sort of aluminium panel.

The Gallery

This first floor Gallery includes the frescos from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - but on the floor.

It's a very weird feeling when you first see it - it's almost as if a famous destination for viewing great art has been upended. However from the descriptions of all those who had been to the Sistine Chapel, the overwhelming consensus was how pleasant it was to be able to look at the images but without
  • the neckache!
  • the time limit for viewing - due to the speed with which ticketed and timed groups are marshalled through to make sure everybody gets to get in and see the great art.
In effect the display "explodes" the pictorial imagery by separating individual scenes - but placing them close to one another as they might be seen in the real chapel. Other images from the ceiling are on the side walls.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel reduced in size and on the floor

Here you have as much time as you like to look at Michaelangelo's iconic paintings - which has the ceiling on the floor.

Can I recommend you....

Making the scenes smaller actually makes it so much easier to see the nine scenes from the Book of Genesis within the ceiling. You see the connections much more easily.

Also take a look at the Vatican's Sistine Chapel website for the explanation of the
Michelangelo completed the first half of the Ceiling, that is from the entrance wall to the Creation of Eve, in August 1510. The work must have been completed by 31 October 1512, as the Pope celebrated Mass in the Chapel on 1 November.

The Creation story

God divides the water from the Earth (above)
God creates the sun and the planets (below)

Adam and Eve - after which God removes himself from the ceiling 

part of the Adam and Eve Story
(above) Adam and Eve are tempted and ejected from the Garden of Eden
 (below) God creates Eve
The rather large muscular ladies in the stories were so they could be seen - and also because the chances are that all his models were young chaps!

Story of Noah

The three scenes concerning Noah, come from the sixth to ninth chapters of Genesis amd are thematic rather than chronological.
  • sacrifice by Noah
  • the flood
  • the story of Noah's drunkenness
The story of Noah - from bottom to top

These images were created when the frescos were photographed following the Restoration - which was undertaken between 1984 and 1994 - when everything was removed down to the paint impregnated plaster which was Michelangelo's original work.

I found an image in Wikipedia which illustrates the "before" and "after".

Daniel - before and after the Restoration

If you saw the Sistine Chapel before the Restoration you will be wowed by the change in the imagery following the removal of the later layers and all the dirt - the change is remarkable - and the colours are fabulous.

The curator explained that one of the reasons why the colours are so very bright is because it needed to be capable of being seen by people who were a long way down.

The photographic images were also to provide a baseline for any future restoration work. However they also realised that they also created the opportunity to send the Sistine Chapel touring around the world.

Prophets and Sibyls

The Last Judgement

The Last Judgement behind the altar in the Sistine Chapel - can be found as a half size version (which is still enormous) in The Great Hall (all that is left of Winchester Castle which was started in the 11th century).

The Last Judgement - half its normal size - in The Great Hall
It faces the Round Table - associated with King Arthur but actually painted very much later.

The "Winchester Round Table" hangs on the wall and bears the names of various knights of Arthur's court. The thinking is that it was probably created for a Round Table tournament. The wood comes from the reign of Edward and the 1 (1250–1280) but the paint comes from the reign of Henry VIII and the table bears his likeness.

Meaning that the King who rejected the Catholic Church is facing one of the greatest works of art belonging to the Catholic Church. I'm sure the irony was not lost on the curators!

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: A Different View

Exhibition Details

The exhibition is located in the centre of Winchester - a 5 minute walk from the train station - and only an hour by train from London.

  • Winchester Discovery Centre - Jewry Street, Winchester SO23 8SB (It used to be based in the historic Corn Exchange building)
  • the 13th century Great Hall, Castle Avenue WinchesterHampshireSO23 8UJ - home of the symbolic Medieval Round Table. 
Hours: The Discovery Centre (apart from Bank Holidays)
  • Monday: 10:00am - 7:00pm
  • Tuesday: 10:00am - 7:00pm
  • Wednesday: 10:00am - 7:00pm
  • Thursday: 10:00am - 7:00pm
  • Friday: 10:00am - 7:00pm
  • Saturday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
  • Sunday: 11:00am - 3:00pm
Hours: The Great Hall - The Great Hall is normally open every day from 10am to 4.30pm
(Note The Current website for the Great Hall - run by Hampshire County Council makes no reference to the exhibition of the Last Judgement. It's almost as if it's a secret!)