Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Sistine Chapel

Palmaroli Vicente (1834-1896),
The Sistine Chapel, Rome 1865
Négatif verre, peinture (technique)
Paris, agence photo RMN, fonds Druet-Vizzavona

The above photograph was taken in 1865

It shows the then Pope (Blessed Pope Pius IX) in the Sistine Chapel

The source is the French website: Agence photographique which is a fascinating website and well worth some time to browse its pages and very many images.

It is not clear if the photographer is the same Vicente Palmaroli who was a Spanish painter born of an Italian lithographer who emigrated to Spain. Vicente Palmaroli was a distnguished painter who became a director of the Prado Museum. He had been a director of the Spanish Academy in Rome.

Painting on photographs was a common technique in the early days of photography. Photography was seen as an exciting development in the technique and history of painting.

The above scene is a contrast with the scene immediately below which is from a miniature in an illuminated showing a Ponitifical Mass with Pope Sixtus IV in the Sistine Chapel - well before Michelangelo did his works.

Italian School
Ponitifical Mass. Pope Sixtus IV in the Sistine Chapel (15th Century)
Illuminated manuscript
0.108 m. x 0.163 m.
Musée Condé, Chantilly

Contrast also with the near contemporaneous painting of the Sistine Chapel by Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat below

Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat (1834-1922)
The Interior of the Sistine Chapel
Oil on canvas
0.455 m. x 0.590 m.
Musée d'Orsay, Paris


  1. Thanks for this Terry. By coincidence I visited the Sistine Chapel a week or so ago.

    Is the tiled floor a modern addition? I notice that in the photograph and the painting, the floor seems to be carpeted.



  2. Thank you

    I don`t know is the honest answer.

    If there was a carpet now, it probably would not last long with the huge number of tourists who crowd and throng into the Chapel each day.

    Perhaps they still bring out carpeting for special occasions ?

  3. Actually, the tiled floor is quite old. The carpeting of it is a sign that a celebration was about to take place. In olden times (previous to 1962 anyhow) places like the Sistine Chapel would have been carpeted except during Lent (or sometimes just Holy Week when the altar was stripped and all the hangings, curtains and tapestries were removed during Holy Thursday). THEN you could see the desolate, cold marble.
    Nowadays, we get such a dose of the unadorned cold marble all the time that we take for granted the difference... remember that before, all the walls would be hung with red velvet for high solemnities, and sometimes also with tapestries - even if they did cover the beautiful frescoes - but it was for the sake of showing a difference in degree of celebration. For a funeral of state, instead of red velvet, you could expect all the walls, doors, etc to be hung with black velvet. Again, the putting on and taking down of these paraments signified something. Think of it in terms of seeing a flag pole without a flag... it's just there... then on a flag day everyone flies the flag(in the US we don't have this so much, since flags fly all year round... but places like Sweden or Denmark still fly the flag only on special occasions and national holidays to signify the people are celebrating). Then if there is a period of mourning, people break out the flag too, but leave it at half mast. These differences use to inform ... now one better monitor twitter ... how times have changed! Not saying that for the worse... but certainly so much has been given up that there is too often a disconnect with who we were - not what, but who - and that is sad no matter how one puts it.

  4. You are of course correct

    What used to be the Pope`s private chapel is now replaced by others

    For the last fifty years apart from special occasions it is really only part of a Museum complex which is if course a pity