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Sistine Chapel conservation panel set up

'No short-term threats' to frescoes says Paolucci

10 September, 14:51
Sistine Chapel conservation panel set up

(by Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Vatican City - An international panel has been set up to examine ways of conserving the Sistine Chapel without restricting visits, Vatican Museums chief Antonio Paolucci has told ANSA.

Paolucci recently said the levels of atmospheric pollution in the Chapel were too high and the masses who walk through it each day might threaten the priceless art there.

But he told ANSA: "I never said the frescoes were in danger".

Examining Michelangelo's masterpieces close-up during a recent dusting-off, Paolucci said he had been able to see they were "in good health".

However, he also noted the effects of "thermal and climatic stress" produced by the masses gazing up at them.

He had therefore decided to establish a "roundtable, with the contribution of people from outside," to advance proposals for better conserving the 500-year-old masterworks.

Paolucci stressed there were no "short-term" threats to the art and no need, for the moment, to cut the number of visitors. In an interview with Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, Paolucci called the number of visitors "excessive", and climate controls "inadequate". He said there was an "insufficient" capacity to remove pollutants.

"If we want to conserve the Sistine Chapel in acceptable conditions for future generations, tackling this is our main challenge," he said.

The Vatican has in recent years cut the number of people in the Chapel at any one time, but it is still visited by an estimated 10,000 people a day.

The Sistine Chapel, which serves as the location for papal conclaves, is one of the best-known treasuries of art in the world and contains Michelangelo's crowning achievement, The Last Judgement.

Pope Sixtus IV gave his name to the Chapel when he had the old Cappella Magna restructured and commissioned a first cycle of pictures in 1481 from artists including Botticelli, Perugino and Ghirlandaio.

In 1508 Pope Julius II dragooned Michelangelo to paint the barrel-vaulted ceiling, which, legend says, the artist agreed to do reluctantly since he was more interested in sculpture.

Michelangelo was recalled by Pope Paul III to paint the Last Judgement in 1536.

Subsequent modifications were made by Michelangelo's pupil Daniel da Volterra, known as the breeches-maker because he famously covered Michelangelo's nude figures with strategically placed cloths in 1564.

The last large-scale intervention in the Chapel was in 1984-1994 when a comprehensive restoration was carried out.

It sparked polemics in art circles with some experts arguing the refurbished colours were too bright.

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