Talk:Restoration of the Sistine Chapel frescoes

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Purpose of the Sistine Chapel[edit]

See main article Sistine Chapel

--Amandajm 10:49, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

A Secco[edit]

I've just removed an insertion re Vasari and Condivi's comments.


  • It had been dumped in beween two paragraphs that flowed in sense from one to the other. The introduced comment disrupted the meaning so that the beginning of the second paragraph which referred directly to the preceeding paragraph became unintelligible.
  • The paragraph referred to whether Michelangelo worked on the ceiling "a secco". It stated-

However, this seems unlikely since Michelangelo's contemporary biographers (Vasari and Condivi) indicate that Michelangelo did not have the time to add the 'a secco' additions after the initial painting due to the Pope's insistence concerning the removal of the scaffolding for viewing of the ceiling.

There is a misunderstanding as to what Vasari and Condivi meant. It was usual, as is described in Sistine Chapel ceiling to work over an entire fresco "a secco" with gold leaf and bright blue made from ground lapis lazuli. This is to be found in Giotto's work Scrovegni Chapel and Fra Angelico's chapel at the Vatican. This would have been a time-consuming process and would have been done as a second stage. All the other frescoes in the Chapel, including the Last Judgement, have blue and/or gold. It wasn't done in the case of the ceiling, except, as I have written in Sistine Chapel ceiling on the shields.

On the other hand, touching up the details and shadows of each individual figure would have occured on a day to day basis, as each figure neared completion. Because of the rate at which plaster dried and because a large figure could take more than a day, sometimes the completion would have occurred when the plaster was dry or nearly dry, as I have explained within this article. That is the reason why some figures have black details painted "fresco" and some had details painted "a secco". These details have now gone.

I hope this makes it clear. It doesn't conflict with what Vasari and Condivi said.

--Amandajm 11:07, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

God creating Adam, unrestored
God creating Adam, unrestored


I am a bit worried by the highlighted bit of: "It was discovered, on close examination, that apart from smoky deposits, seepage deposits and structural cracks, Michelangelo's frescos were in extremely good condition, as the master painter had employed the best possible fresco techniques and, as recorded by Vasari, had used a very stable and mould-resistant recipe for the ground (called Intonaco), developed by his assistant Jacopo l'Indaco, in which the plaster was mixed with volcanic ash. This has saved the ceiling from extensive biological attack."

- I can't see that either Vasari or the referenced "Giani" (which I have) say this, though I can see such a claim in many low-grade web refs. Vasari says the "the elder Indaco" was one of the Florentine assistants whose drawings he tore up & sent home, and also that Giuliano da Sangallo showed him, 1/3 of the way through the work, how to remove mould that was growing on the finished work. The passage has been messed about a bit, including by me - "intonaco" is essentially the Italian for "plaster" & was certainly not invented by Indaco, nor was the use of volcanic dust at all original. It might be better to trim to: " the master painter had employed the best possible fresco techniques, as recorded by Vasari, which has saved the ceiling from extensive biological attack." Johnbod 20:44, 30 September 2007 (UTC)

I just added the Intonaco bit, as requested. As for the reference to Vasari, Varsari mentions l'Indaco but not the "mould resistant recipe", that I can find. And I'm not sure where it came from but it must have been from a different source... which I will have to track down. And in the meantine I'll put it back to the way it was. Amandajm 06:41, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
Still a problem. Thanks for drawing it to my attention. I'll get back to it. Amandajm 06:53, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
OK. There's a blurb by Vasari about what constitutes a "good fresco technique" but I need to track down the original to cite it. It's in Book I. It might be in the Giotto article or somewhere like that.
With regards to the development of "intonaco", all the online references, in both English and Italian that I can find attribute it to JJacop l'Indaco hhere's and example:
"Il primo strato di gesso cominciò ad ammuffire perché era troppo bagnato. Michelangelo dovette rimuoverlo e ricominciareda capo, ma provò una nuova miscela, chiamata intonaco, creata da uno dei suoi assistenti, Jacopo l'Indaco."

Cappella Sistina option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=26. (Don't know who wrote it!)

Vasari included a life of Jacopo l'Indaco but it hasn't been translated online yet (that I can find). This little volume I have here only includes the major people. However, it does seem that he is generally creditted with the invention.Amandajm 09:19, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, you find that sentence all over the web, but on tourist sites. Googling Indaco+intonaco etc gets nothing relevant on G Scholar etc. To say Indaco invented intonaco is nonsense - you can easily see the term used in reference to far earlier frescos, ditto the use of the volcanic stuff from Pozzuoli - that's why I put a "new recipe" as a stopgap. I can't see anything on a quick scan of the dual-text Vite of Indaco here. It's not a crucial point for this article, so as it is recorded here on the talk page, I will trim to my version above until the reference to Indaco is sourced. Johnbod 12:44, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
Yes, the use of the term "intonaco" had been around since prior to Michelangelo. As for the use of volcanic ash, as far as I know it had been used in plaster since the Romans.
It's been suggested that l'Indaco's name led to the term, however his name has nothing whatsoever to do with "intonaco". "Indaco" is "indigo" which sounds like a painterly sort of name, but may be indicative that his family were originally dyers.
But this doesn't exclude the notion that Jacopo l'Indaco's plaster may not have been of a superior quality, and that Mick may not have used it. Vasari describes the fact that the efflorences started when a third of the work was completed and Mick was in such a state of despair he wanted to stop then and there. In places the term "mould" is used in my tanslation, but I don't think that it means mold, I think its all efflorescences, which spread in a very similar pattern to mold. The roof above must have been in a seriously bad way, to let that much water in. It really makes you wonder why the roof wasn't made completely weatherproof before embarking on the ceiling. It seems ridiculous!.... even given that there were walkways around the outside just above the level of the ceiling. Amandajm 08:33, 2 October 2007 (UTC)

Matthan lunette[edit]

The article mentions both a 'Matthan' lunette and a 'Mathan' lunette. Reference searches do reveal sources for both spellings of the Sistine Chapel lunette. Assuming the article reference is the same, in the absence of a direct quote the spelling probably should be made consistent within the article. The most appropriate spelling is a decision I leave to the more informed. Michael Devore 05:15, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

Can we have before-and-after pictures of the same piece at top?[edit]

Can we have before-and-after pictures of the same piece at the top, since the restoration is the subject of the article? When the pictures finished loading on my browser I did a double-take - "That's one heck of a restoration." Tempshill 04:14, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Discrepancy between dates[edit]

There seems to be an inconsistency with the starting and ending dates of the ceiling and last judgment, if you follow the links from this page to the individual pages for the ceiling and the last judgment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:10, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


Wouldn't it be better to call this article Restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes? It doesn't really discuss the restoration of Michelangelo's Last Judgment or the works by other painters. Skarioffszky 08:35, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


This is a great article by the way, kudos to the writers. The images in particular! --SGGH speak! 08:55, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

Yes, nice job to all involved. I had no idea I would find this topic interesting until I started reading the article and couldn't stop. --Doradus 21:19, 14 November 2007 (UTC)


This article has very severe NPOV-problems as the text strongly tends to side with the critics of the restoration. Many sections are written simply assuming the criticism is correct. It might be, but it is not our place to propound this.--MWAK 09:18, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

It would also be good to include some response to the criticisms. For example, it seems to me (knowing nothing about art restoration) that if Michelangelo used carbon black for shadows, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove the smoke residue without damaging his material as well. So the alternative would be to leave the painting (or sections of it) covered in crud, which does not seem like a viable one. KarlM 13:45, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

I totally agree with this. As I read the article, the critics of the restoration seem to dominate. A more ballanced approach to the article needs to be taken. However, before we slap a NPOV tag on the article, perhaps the authors could add in this ballance?--Alabamaboy 14:29, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
When this was raised at FA review, I think it was said that independent supporters in print were actually very hard to find. Johnbod 14:31, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
The article isn't unbalanced - it's just that the criticism has been presented in a very understandable and compelling way. I never expected that as a layperson I would be able to spot whatever subtle problems the critics might fix upon, but the before and after pictures, with detailed explanations, are hard to dispute. It may be that further development can be done on this article (especially I'd like to see what the restorers have to say about the eyes and other dark detailing).
One point I'm particularly curious about: if someone wished to "undo" the damage at some later time by detailing the eyes and scrollwork according to the original, would they need to rely on the $1000-a-copy book by the restoration company to determine what had been improperly removed? And would this mean that, in essence, the true form of the Sistine Chapel artwork is now and forever the copyrighted property of that company? 15:41, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
Actually, it's $1500 now Raul654 15:48, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I also felt that criticism of the restoration may have been overrepresented. If, as Johndbod says, this is the result of a dearth of "pro" RS, then the weight may be warranted, though criticism is perhaps incorporated into the narrative voice more than NPOV would warrant. TewfikTalk 14:40, 15 November 2007 (UTC)
As the writer of the article, I want to state that I have, in the past, supported the notion that works of art should be cleaned of dirty accretions to the surface if this could be done without damage to the substance of the picture. I went into the writing of this article under the impression that the removal of the many layers of smoke from the ceiling could only have been a good thing, and that the public has benefitted by having the bright colours revealed.
I was alerted by all the online opposition, and on close examination, was convinced that the opponents were right, that many irreplaceable original details are gone.
Questions have been asked by the opponents that have simply never been answered.
The only answer lies in the repeated statement by the restorers that Michelangelo only worked in fresco, and that he did not ever finish the details when the plaster had dried. But the head of the team contradicts this himself as I have quoted in the article. There is nothing else that can refute the claims of even the most moderate opponents. The eyes on the figure in green and white were there before and are not there now. That is not a POV statement.
I have tried to maintain as non POV position as possible, by presenting the reasons for the restoration, the procedures and the processes used as described by the restorers and the methods used to prevent further deterioration. ... Amandajm 09:44, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
In answer to MWAK, what I have done is made a statement of what the criticisms are, as presented by the critics. I have then illustrated the points that the critics have made using four paired pictures within the text. But the preceding ten pictures are without comment, except for one that has purely technical comments. They illustrate the statements made by the restoration team and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.
There is a heading Criticism and praise. I had great difficulty finding any praise for the restoration that was not made by someone with an interest. This is why I resorted to quoting a well-written piece by the promotions department of the air-conditioing company. Amandajm 09:44, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
In answer to KarlM, one of the stated procedures was that the investigation should be ongoing and that the restorers should respond to what they found. The process that was used, as far as I can see, did not respect this stated procedure. A decision was made, despite evidence to the contrary, that the entire cceiling had no a secco painting. That meant that despite the stated aims, a universal approach could be employed that removed the element of human judgement. (or human error, if you like).
This universal approach was to clean down to the bare fresco. It was achieved in several stages. Had the process been less radical, then probably (or perhaps only possibly, but I'll go for the former) many of the areas overpainted by Michelangelo would have remained. Even though both contained carbon black, the paint that he used would have been mixed with glue and the ceiling would have been dampen to help bond it. The smoky deposit was essentially fatty.

I cannot make this article more balanced than it is now. I feel that the present balance accurately represents the response by artists, critics and historians to what has been done.

While I do not want in any way to trivialise an event that has cost the lives of thousands, I must point out that the US, UK and Australisn Governments had good justifaction for war with Iraq. But what is refelected, overwhelmingly, in wikipedia's articles is the criticism, the opposition and the disastrous results. One could argue that this is not a balanced point of view.

But wikipedia is not a three-to-a-side formal debate where the style and refutation is everything and the topic really doesn't matter. Wikipedia is here to present factual information. And if the facts as gleaned from documentary sources and supported by clearly visible primary sources indicate that the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling resulted in losses to the original painting, then that is what must be presented. If writers have frequently expressed the opinion that this is a disaster, then that ought to be presented as well. Amandajm 09:44, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

The article is still POV. I read a National Geographic article a while back on the restoration and they included a much more ballanced approach, giving the pros and cons from both sides of this issue. Because so many people have raised this NPOV issue I'm going to tag the article until this is resolved.---- Alabamaboy (talk) 21:11, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
As an example of this POV issue, you cite The Sistine Chapel: A Glorious Restoration by Pietrangeli, Hirst and Colalucci, eds., only once and that was for a technical issue of how the restorers platform was moved. Yet this book is a treasure trove of support for the restoration, as the title indicates.---- Alabamaboy (talk) 21:21, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
Though hardly independent, as they were all involved in it. Johnbod (talk) 00:14, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

POV- the difference between the whys and the hows[edit]

The books produced by the restorers and those who have an interest in the restoration are successful in justifying why the restoration was done. And they successfully produce a great number of pictures to show that cracks have been repaired, that salty deposists have been removed, that flaking and bubbling has been counteracted (this was fortunately not a major problem) that old structural supports and repairs were checked and stabiliised. These are the benefits of the restoration and all these things are discussed in the article. None of these matters is contentious. There is no negative discussion about this stuff at all, because no-one has made any criticism of these measures whatsoever. This material is simply presented as the facts. Moreover, it has been presented with accuracy and understanding, because, although I have never been involved with a fresco restoration, I am personally well aware of the general conservation (restoration) procedures set in place by the Vatican, and which, if taken as strict guidelines, are really very cautious in their approach. As it happens, they were world leaders in establishing conservation procedures.

The matter of contention is not that the ceiling (and lunettes) was restored. Neither is it the fact that the ceiling was cleaned. The problem lies in the decisions as to what did and did not constitute Michelangelo's intentions, and Michelangelo's own work. It is more at this point than any other that the restorers ought to have erred on the side of caution. They were told. they were warned. They ignored statements by the previous restoration team. They ignored all the arguments put up by critics, painters and art historians. They refused to respond when the whistle was blown. They went ahead anyway. And they did it, taking a universal approach that removed human judgement from the equation, despite a stated position that they would respond to each area of the ceiling as a separate case.

Do you really expect that some member of the team is going to put their hand up and say "I went up there on the scaffold, I looked into the intense and compelling gaze of the figure in the Jesse lunette, and then applied three layers of solvent that removed first the automotive exhaust deposits, then the candlewax and carbon deposits, and thirdly, after those eyes had been clearly revealed by the removal of most of the dirt, the final layer of glue-size and paint, and swabbed the eyes away, leaving two blank sockets." ? That is what somebbody did. That was the decision mmade in relation to that figure. That was the supposed sympathetic response to each individual part of the ceiling.

The facts are plain. When the team started cleaning those areas of lesser importance, eg, the archhiitectural details of the frames around the pics, they could see that every single bit of detail looked similar. But as they cleaned, in some cases it stayed fixed, because it was "fresco" and in some cases it came off because it was "secco". In the ccases where it was secco, the process employed destroyed the details. This was very obviously apparent. A proper response to this obvious loss of detail would have been to take a more cautious approach, bbut that was not done.

I suppose we can just thank God Almighty that Michelangelo painted the eyes of God, and Adam, and Eve in the famous "Creation of Adam" scene while the plaster was still wet. Because if he had painted that particular scene in the dry Italian summer and put the finishing touches at the very end of the day, (as one might expect) then that interaction between God and Adam, and the wondering and slightly alarmed look of Eve as she sees her husband-to-be come to life would have been lost forever due to the restoration.

Yes, the restorers can show a thousand beautifully coloured pictures to support the fact that the ceiling needed cleaning. I have presented ten similar pics in the article that illustrate that point. But they have never justified the approach taken to the cleaning, or discussed the losses of definition. To put it in the simplest possible terms, the compositions, tonal scheme annd details should all be much mmore apparent with the filth lifted. In some areas, eg, the Creation of Adam, this is the case. But in other areas, eg most of the Jonah figure, the Haman scene, many of the lunettes, several of the spandrels, some of the other prophets and many areas of the architecture, the details are greatly diminished. Why? Because they've been removed and Michelangelo's intended finished appearance has been lost.

The full impact of this may be very hard for a person who is not an artist, or art student to comprehend. But we are talking about the most famous frescoes in the world. We are talking about a series of paintings which hhad profound impact on the direction of art, and which have bbeen irreversibly changed, It's like knocking the nose off the sphynx and saying, "Oh yes, but we've removed all the sand so you can see it better."

No-one will ever deny the pleasure of seeing the colours. That point does not need to be proven, and it cannot be used as justification for removing the linear details, the shadows and the eyes that were painted in black. This is the matter that has brought critism and this is the matter that has never been adequately addessed, not even in a $1500 book.

... and as for the National Geographic.... it is easy, as I have said already, to justify the fact of the restoration, the repairs, the stabilisation, and the removal of filth. If you use this as your pro-case, then its very easy to say "oh well, perhaps a few losses are necessary for the greater good." I personally would not expect the National Geographic to present a strongly negative case, in the face of the Vatican.

From a conservation point of view, it was not the fact of the restoration, but its methods and its failure at appropriate response to the specific conditions that are challenged. The irreversible nature of the losses contravenes all good conservation practice. This is the guts of what the critics are saying, and what has been presented here. A large and impressive book funded by a global enterprise might fool the general public, but not anyone who has ever been involved in conservation. I want to point out to you that the critics of the restoration have nothing whatsoever to gain by their opposition. And while the critics keep right on bellowing, independent supporters are strangely silent.

Amandajm (talk) 02:06, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Analysis of the article[edit]

Here is a breakdown by word count of the article. It is essentially a rough count because it is affected by formatting.

  • About 3,750 words of the article are completely neutral, presenting the restoration as it was described and explained by the restoration team, and explaining some general details about fresco painting, with 10 supporting pictures.
  • About 575 words state in neutral language that from the outset there was opposition and criticism and give the history of that opposition.
  • About 1,150 words present and analyse the views of the critics, with 4 supporting pictures
  • About 490 words of praise are directly quoted
  • About 490 words of criticism are directly quoted.

I do not believe that this article is unbalanced. The opposition constitutes a significant part of the history of the project itself and has been presented as such. I want the POV banner removed.

Amandajm (talk) 03:42, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

  • I would agree; that the article has just been through the FA process in its current state as far as this issue is concerned, and where this issue was raised, ought to go a long way to demonstrate NPOV. That the article is more critical than the National Geographic and a book produced by the restorers does not indicate POV to me. I think the tag is unwarranted, although the article will of course continue to evolve. Johnbod (talk) 03:58, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
  • Several thoughts: For many years fellow painters have voiced their strenuous dismay over the extent of the cleanings, which I tended to listen to but, privately, dismiss. Such is the strength of one's desire to accept positive interpretations (and pretty, bright colors!). It is reasonable to conclude that some of the published sources already referred to were not completely neutral. This entry articulately clarifies the goals, results, and criticisms of the cleaning, reminds one of the primacy of draftsmanship in Michelangelo's process, and of the likelihood that some drawing and modeling of forms was lost during restoration.
Much criticism has been leveled against restoration of artwork in the last few decades; if I recall right, it was especially in the 1950s or 60s that some major museums over-cleaned Rembrandts, so that glazes were stripped along with subsequent varnishes, and gold tones turned to silver. So this is not a new controversy, but because of the subject in this instance, and the intense publicity, criticism has been strong, noteworthy, and joined by important scholars and artists. If prominent scholars and artists have voiced support of the cleaning, their observations can and ought to, of course, be included in the article.
Given the inevitable controversies, my thought is that several paragraphs remain to be cited: for instance, under 'Colour', those passages dealing with the Libyan Sybil and the Prophet Daniel, as well as that regarding Jonah, would profit from specific reference. But the overall content is informative, well-written, and represents an intelligent and well-researched source of information on a controversial topic. As Johnbod offers above, the article will continue to evolve, and the current application of an NPOV tag merits reconsideration. JNW (talk) 14:53, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
Further response to KarlM
I have just reread the description of the process. There were two different solvents used, as I would expect. Three, actually, if we include the distilled water. The reason being that the gunk and the "overpainting" required separate treatment.
The first solvent was specifically for removing the candlewax and everything that was imbedded in it. The second solvent was specifically to remove "retouchings and repaintings" (I quote Gianluigi Colalucci). This second solvent was applied, washed away and allowed to dry. The following day, the process was repeated.
The decision was that anything that came off obviously wasn't by Michelangelo. However, before the process took place, a large number of very vocal people said that they believed that part of Michelangelo's work was a secco and therefore would come off. Among the people who said this were those best qualified to know ie. the members of the previous restoration team!!
I repeat I don't believe that the way that I have handled this topic contravenes neutrality. The protests and objections had to bbe dealt with. I bbelieve that I have answered the various questions raised on this page, and request that the NPOV banner is removed.
Amandajm (talk) 09:03, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

My apology for missing your response. I've been very busy offline. As you said on my talk page, "As I have said before, I came at this from a point of complete neutrality. But as soon as I read the criticisms, I saw with my own eyes that they were correct. Moreover, when I read what the head of the team wrote, I saw how far what they did deviated from "best practices" ie the procedures that were actually laid down by their very own department in the 1970s and remain at the forefront of good conservation practice." That concerns me b/c it makes you appear to have an agenda with the article. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good article. It just needs to have more of a balance. I see Raul has already removed the tag and I'll support that for now. However, I'm going to research this subject more and see if there are valid sources of supporting analysis and opinion missing. If I find there are, I hope you will consider the addition of this info. Otherwise I feel the tag will have to be returned to the article. Best, --Alabamaboy (talk) 19:52, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

The point is that Amandjam has come to a personal conclusion about the subject and that he expounds subtopics as if this conclusion were correct. This makes the article POV. Wikipedia articles about contentious subjects should give the pros and cons — but not conclude — and certainly not be based on such a conclusion. It is irrelevant whether the conclusion is justified: that is not a question we have to answer...--MWAK (talk) 12:33, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
Alambamaboy, What is required here is not simply a statement that says "isn't this wonderful"! We've got the Pope's statement, and several others that say that sort of thing.
What is required to give the sort of "balance" that you want is an in-depth explanation for the removals: the eyes, the architectural details, the black washes that were over the red, green (and other) shadows, the very carefully painted pentimenti (alterations) like that on the edge of Daniel's robe (which was finished with great care), the black paint creating dark shadows in the picture of Haman and others, the touches of black outline judiciously placed to create visual recession on some edges, etc. etc. etc.....
These are the explanations that we need, not a statement that "We cleaned the ceiling because it was covered with filth, and because previous restorations had added to the gunk". We all know that, and it is included in the article.
If you, Alabamboy, can find real answers to the questions, then you will have done the entire art community a massive favour, because, believe me, no-one has succeeded yet in getting real answers, apart from the oft-repeated statement by Colalucci that "Michelangelo did not paint "a secco"". (I have detailed Colalucci's vagaries on this point. He contradicts himself several times.)
Alabamaboy, if you can get at real answers that no-one else has been able to extract, then they do indeed belong in the article. What neither you nor MWAK seem able to comprehend is that I have not been able to get at these answers.
The other thing that neither of you seem to comprehend is that I do not have an agenda. My only agenda was to give the subject a fair treatment, and the benefit of my expertise in writing it. However, the facts that came to light in the researching of the topic needed presenting.
These are the facts.
  1. Eyeballs, architectural details, black wash over red underpainting and black detail on contours were removed in the cleaning.
  2. The Vatican codes of conservation practice state that irreversible changes should not be made.
  3. Irreversible changes were made.
  4. The previous restorers said that Michelangelo painted partly "a secco". I quote Colalucci as writing this.
  5. Arguimbau says Colalucci contradicted himself several times on the team's findings relevant to this matter. Since it is vital to the issue, I detail the contradictions, as written by C. himself. Not from Argy-bargy, but from Colalucci.
  6. In writing the article, I stated the fact of the removals.
  7. I demonstrated the fact with primary sources, ie "before and after" shots of the works.
  8. I supported the "primary sources" with quotations and citations. These were for the most part very critical in nature, because no-one has ever written anything nice about the fact that someone washed off the eyeballs.
  9. The ongoing criticism was a fact of the restoration. I have given the names, quotations and some history of that criticism. It is integral to any article on this subject.
  • So, I'm really getting rather tired of this. Can I suggest that neither of you, MWAK or Alabamboy, bother commenting on this again until you have either come up with some real answers to the questions above. Or else you have both done your research into art conservation practice and principles, until you know a good deal about the process of painting frescos, and you have a thorough understanding of the use of colour, tone, line, contrast, foreshortening and recession in painting. Then, in the light of your understanding, spend a year looking at "before and after" shots. If you do these things, (provided that you have perceptive insight to art) you will fully comprehend the facts that I have presented, and you will probably cease to mistake fact for POV.
NOTE: There are people who are "tone deaf". Likewise, while most people "get" the eyeball thing, some people are incapable of "seeing" how the removal of a black line, or a black wash can effect the whole composition of a picture. If you fall into this category, then you can understand "in principle" but not with real perception of the significance of what has happened.
Good luck with your research!
Amandajm (talk) 02:38, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Again: the issue at hand is not whether the position you defend can be reasonably defended; the issue is that Wikipedia is not the place to defend positions. If this were a scientific article its logical structure would be correct: an attempt to give a fair treatment of facts, primary and secondary sources and arguments, culminating in a logical conclusion. But it isn't a scientific paper but an encyclopedic lemma. When discussing a controversial subject you are simply not allowed to make the text say things that come down to "after careful consideration of the facts it can only be concluded that side A has it right and side B is in the wrong".
You must accomplish a very difficult thing: to abstract from your own convinctions and treat the subject allowing for the possibility that the other side might be right. I you fail in doing this, you are as deaf to the very specific demands of an encyclopedia, as an other might be to the tonality of a picture...--MWAK (talk) 08:32, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Give me the other side, and I'll state it.
The "rightness" or "wrongness" all hangs on the statement that Michelangelo only painted in fresco and never touched anything up afterward. The head of the team states this, and then contradicts the statement. The old restorers support the contradiction. The critics support the contradicion. The physical evidence supports the contradiction. It doesn't really matter whether I personally support the contradiction or not. Just stating these facts is going to look very one-sided.
I want to point out to you, MWAK, that, at Raoul's suggestion (I must admit), the article finishes with a positive section, not a negative one. It ends with a quotation from Vasari, and a statement made by Carlo Pietrangeli. That, to my way of thinking, is about as positive as one can be, under the circumstances. It is an acknowledgement that the "official position" is one of praise. Amandajm (talk) 12:42, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Well, the main NPOV-problem with this article is not that the "other side" is not sufficiently represented — though I'm convinced a much better job could be done at this — but that it is indeed the "other side" of the article: the article has sided with the opposition and is simply not neutral. Certainly the phrasing is not neutral. Opinions as these are stated as fact, without the slightest qualification, although they simply represent the views of the critics:
  • "(...)the removal of the carbon black has diminished the dramatic intensity of all four scenes. This is particularly noticeable in the loss of depth in the Death of Haman. Where once the figure projected starkly against the darkly shadowed interior, now foreshortening, definition and drama is lost in the pastel monotone that remains."
  • "A comparison of the "restored" and "unrestored" figure gives strong evidence that Michelangelo worked over this figure in a wash of carbon black, and that the technique was preplanned."
Response This comment is supported by a reference to Arguimbau. It illustrates his comments. Amandajm (talk) 08:29, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
  • "(...)when images of the frescoes are viewed in their stained and unrestored state the subtle washes and intense definitions, described by Beck and Arguimbau, still make their presence known, giving mass and bulk to the forms."
Response I don't know how you can argue with this one.
  • "The eye sockets of the family in the Zorobabel lunette are strangely empty as are the eyes of the man in the Aminadab lunette, but probably the most distressing loss is the gaze of the little figure in green and white who once looked out of the gloom above the lunette of Jesse."
Yeah, "the most distressing loss" really is pushing it a bit, I've got to admit! OK then, I'll find the reference (if I can track it down) that says that one of the guys (I don't think it was Colalucci) found the eyes of that figure in green and white particularly fascinating (before they were cleaned off!)
OK, I went back and did some rewriting. Amandajm (talk) 08:29, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
Surely, at least such obvious POV-language should be rephrased?--MWAK (talk) 13:48, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Ah, but what are you going to do about the blatently POV photos, taken by the restorers themselves I believe? Johnbod (talk) 14:32, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
About the photos, I cropped the photos and paired them, in order to make the comparisons. In each case, the cleaned photo looks like an improvement on the unrestored version. It is only when you look in detail at the positioning of the black lines and washes (which you can see despite the grime) that the losses become clear. Other things, like the removal of the pentimenti on the edge of Daniel's robe beggars description! It is so obvious that the change was intentional and done by the artist himself, and, compositionally, one can see why. Whatismore, it wasn't achived just with carbon black, but with about three different colours!. (here I go again!...)'s really hard to believe that they actually did it!
Oh, I didn't do the photo with the diagonal. But someone added it and I thought it was good. Amandajm (talk) 08:29, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
As for the other matters, using picture to illustrate POVs made by Beck and Arguimbau seems fine by me. Amandajm (talk) 08:01, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
  • The ones showing loss of frieze detail like this are in some ways the most damming - I would be interested to hear any arguments in favour of the cleaning here. Ideally a "before" photo to the one on the right should be added, if you can find one. Johnbod (talk) 14:59, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
Sistine Chapel TwoSpandrels.jpg

I'm glad you adjusted the wording; but it is't enough that an opinion can be referenced with a footnote: to attain the necessary NPOV you have to explicitely attribute every opinion (in the form of : "According to Mr X etc. etc."). This is very tiresome, I realize, but such a controversial subject simply demands it.--MWAK (talk) 12:17, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

I must say, Amandajm, you make a very persuasive argument in the article. But that's the problem, isn't it? You've made an argument, like a prosecutor presenting a case. While advocacy is a perfectly acceptable form of writing in the wider world, it's not appropriate to Wiki. There's no exception to NPOV for "But my POV is really, really good, sourced to published restoration critics and probably right." If I could distill the guiding principle represented by "NPOV" I would use nonjudgmental- but the article as it stands is very judgmental indeed. Solicitr (talk) 20:02, 25 December 2009 (UTC)
I have quoted the aims and procedures. I have quoted the positive opinions and the negative ones. The process of finding positive opinions of a well-informed nature was difficult. It was easy to find well-informed criticism. But for praise I had to fall back on the conservators, on the Pope and on the writing of some unnamed person for the company that installed the air-con system. The criticisms had to be presented. Amandajm (talk) 02:10, 26 December 2009 (UTC)

Why is this an article?[edit]

As someone relatively new to Wikipedia, I'm having trouble understanding why some topics in Wikipedia are chosen to be articles, instead of being sections of higher order articles. It seems to me, if I were using a paper encyclopedia (which I know Wikipedia is not, no need to send me that link), it would never occur to me to look up Restoration of the Sistine Chapel as a separate entry. Instead, I would expect a long section called "Restoration" under the article "Sistine Chapel," making that article more useful. Does anybody have a rule of thumb as to what qualifies a sub-topic to have its own article? Thanks. BWatkins 17:24, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

(1) Wikipedia is not paper, and (2) Wikipedia:Notability Raul654 17:27, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
This *is* sort of a section of the "Sistine Chapel" entry. It would be very unwieldy to have such long and detailed sections all incorporated into the main article; instead, there is a short summary at the main entry with a link to this article. So you're not really expected to look up "Restoration..." as a separate entry; instead, you'd look up "Sistie Chapel", find the section "Resoration and controversy", and follow the link. It's simply taking advantage of the hypertext medium. 17:48, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
Yes, Wikipedia is different. Articles are not discrete but overlap and often even repeat each other. There is no hierarchy: every topic, large and small, can be a featured article if someone wants to take the time and care over it. I don't think most editors think in terms of "sub-topics". And since everyone is a volunteer, we cannot force them to write the "higher order" articles first. So the accumulation of high quality articles is somewhat random: we have some brilliant articles on narrow topics while we still have some terrible ones on major topics. It's a vast work in progress. qp10qp 21:15, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
There are size constraints on articles (based on loading time etc). If this were stuck on the end of the ceiling article, the combined one would be too long. Johnbod 21:14, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
Since this is his area of expertise, clearly we should ask Ceiling Cat and see what he thinks of the matter. Raul654 21:19, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
In general, the restoration of a work of art or significant building does not warrant a separate article. But this case is different because the effect that it has had upon a very large and uniquely significant artwork is profound, even to the most casual observer, and the amount of contention it has caused is extreme. The restoration is very much a topic in its own right and subject of many articles and a very large book.Amandajm 10:31, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
This work was clearly notable enough on its own to warrant its own article.--Grahamec (talk) 10:26, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Same old story[edit]

Again and again we see a work of art that has been obliterated in some cases due to over enthusiastic restoration. I blame committees. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:15, 22 March 2008 (UTC)

Jesse Spandrel[edit]

Just a small note. The Jesse spandrel eyes were most likely overpainted by someone else. There is clear evidence of the eyes being closed. It's actually referred to in "Michelangelo" by Anthony Hughes. (part of the art and ideas series) (talk) 06:34, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

The problem is that the position taken by the restorers is that all the overpainting of that nature (pentimenti and finishing touches) are the work of other hands. This is the explanation given for everything that they removed.
The eyes before removal were just like the eyes of many of the other figures, but painted, like many other details and shadows, after the plaster had dried. Amandajm (talk) 05:49, 12 April 2008 (UTC)

Then the example of the Jesse Spandrel is a poor example of the problem. When examined the closely her eyes in the original fresco are in the closed position. This was not an uncommon way to depict saints and prophets at the time. I would suggest finding a different example of eyes going missing, as if we are discussing artist intent it would make little sense to paint in fresco eyes closed and then paint eyes in, as a finishing touch. This particular spandrel makes much more sense as meditative with the eyes closed then it does eyes open. (talk) 21:20, 15 April 2008 (UTC)

Re Jesse spandrel

  • To take the last comment first, " the particular spandrel makes much more sense as meditative with the eyes closed than it does eyes open". Since we don't know that she is meditating, it doesn't need to "make sense" in that way. Whatismore, that comment is based on a modern interpretation of meditation or prayer. In a Renaissance picture, closed eyes indicate sleep or death. The only thing that made her look "prophetic" previously was the eyes. She is not one of the prophets, so she doesn't have to look prophetic, she just did.
  • "This was not an uncommon way to depict saints and prophets at the time." This is a very odd statement. It was most uncommon way to paint a saint or a prophet. Except for St Joseph, being visited by an angel in a dream.
  • On close examination, what the "restored" fresco reveals is this:
  1. Both eye areas have greyish pink paint, of flat tonality, that looks as if it has been prepared to have the eyes painted over the top.
  2. Her left eye still reveals a faint trace of the eye that was painted "a secco" (when dry or almost dry)
  3. Her right eye has a faint darkish line in the place where lashes would appear on a closed eye or lower lashes and their shadow would apppear on an open eye. It could defintitely, without close examination, suggest that the eye was closed. Like the faint trace of the eye in the other area, it may be the residue of the a secco painting.
  4. Apart from this dark line, there is nothing to suggest the presence of an eye. When observing and painting the eye, even with the eye closed, its shape is apparent. It is an orb, covered by a lid. Michelangelo painted many figures with lowered lids, including a number of women looking down at children, and several people reading. He always painted the shape of the eye clearly.
  5. Moreover, the bony structure beneath the eyebrow and above the eye has not been painted either.

Because of the permanence of the fresco technique, if Michelangelo had painted sleeping eyes, in "fresco", then they would still be there for us to see. The only way to remove them would be to scrape off the surface, and replaster it. Simply painting over the top when the plaster was dry would not remove the original.

If you take a look at the comparative pics of Daniel, you can see a change that was made to the edge of the robe. There is a rather ugly little fold that was painted out, very carefully, and the edge neatly higlighted to make the fold disappear. This overpainting was removed in the restoration. The overpainting was so well done, and the detail itself was of such comparative insignificance that it is very hard to believe that some later hand very carefully,and with exceeding competence, modified the master's design, specifically to improve the composition. That is highly unlikely! The little change was almost certainly made by the man himself, in what is called a "pentimenti". Changes made by later restorers were not aimed at improving Michelangelo's design. They were aimed at maintaining its legibility.

Nevertheless, this pentimenti allows us to see very clearly just how little affected the fresco is underneath the addition. In other words, If a later artist painted open eyes over eyes that Michelangelo had painted as closed, then the closed eyes would still be clearly visible, and they are not.

On the other hand, if Michelangelo did not succeed in completing the day's work until the plaster dried, then the completing touch, the painting of the eyes, was done on dry plaster, and did not have the permanence of fresco. Only ambiguous (and possibly misleading) traces now remain.

To put it simply, if Anthony Hughes has written that they eyes were closed, then I disagree with his statement, in the light of what I can see by examining reproductions. You have written here "There is clear evidence of the eyes being closed" but I don't know whether the words "clear evidence" are Hughes' words or your words. The evidence for sleeping eyes is not at all clear to me.

However, if you can locate what Anthony Hughes said, or wrote, it would be a very good thing to have a quote, and a proper citation. If you can lay hands on that info, and put an exact quote to that effect on this page, I will find a way of including it in the article.

Amandajm (talk) 14:12, 22 April 2008 (UTC)

Why do the eyes look so un-natural. It looks like a corpse. The eyes before were beautiful. They weren't painted by Michelangelo? (talk) 15:52, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

You didn't read this section before asking?
  • The eyes, which you describe as beautiful, had the details painted in after the plaster was dry.
  • The "restorers" decided that everything that was painted after the plaster was dry must have been done by someone else. They didn't take into account that the plaster dries over the day, while the artist is using it. This means that the early parts of the day's work are on wet plaster, and the last parts of the days work, generally the details are done when the plaster is almost dry. In the summer, in Rome, the weather is hot and dry, so the plaster would have been quite dry by the end of a summer day.
  • The "restorers" cleaned off a lot of the details, and said that they were not the work of Michelangelo, because they were painted on, after the picture was dry.
  • If you look closely at the little decorations on the architecture, you can see that a lot of them have been completely cleaned off, while in other places, it is clear how they were meant to look. Amandajm (talk) 00:33, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

Since I read the article, the issue with the Jesse Spandrel has been addressed. More consensus now, that the "restoration" wasn't. After reading the art-watch in depth analysis and analysing myself somewhat, I came back here to ask about the eyes. "Did Michelangelo paint them?". Defenders of this 'restoration' (and there are many), are trying to say that the eyes within the "Jesse spandrel" were painted as empty sockets. Why? This is arrogance; the new science, the new approach to art. They judge after 500 years. Four years to paint it and 500 years of conservation; to be destroyed by these 'elites'. (talk) 22:50, 5 June 2014 (UTC), where did you find "many" defenders of this restoration? There weren't any, at the time I wrote this article, apart from the restorers themselves. Perhaps they have become more defensive because of the criticisms. Amandajm (talk) 01:34, 6 June 2014 (UTC)


I just rolled back a whole series of edits by user because nearly all of them were inappropriate.

  • Michelangelo's works are not simply "notable". That is a ridiculous way to describe them. Several of the individual pics on the ceiling are, as stated, "among the most famous" artworks, not only of the Reniassance but of all time.
  • "notable" artists? What on earth does "notable" mean and why is it preferable to "famous". But we can change this to "highly-regarded". These guys were very "highly regarded" in their own day, which is why they got the commission.
  • The added gaps appear to achieve nothing when viewed in on the "page" rather than in the editting box.
  • A non-quote was turned into a quote. This section was my brief summary of an entire short chapter.
  • "who?" The sentence is grammmatically correct and is unambiguous. The personal pronoun "their" relates to the noun immediately before it in the sentence, as it should. The noun is conservators. The conservators acted on their understanding.

Amandajm (talk) 02:50, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Thank you for your input.
For your points, in order:
  1. The word famous is a subjective term. It should not occur in any article except articles that are related to this term, or that discuss this term.
  2. The term famous is pov. If we were to use famous, then we would define fame, which is impossible to do. For example, maybe these artists were famous in Italy, but they are unheard of in China. What about the poor Italians that never heard of these "famous" artists, but still lived in Italy? What about the rural isolated Italians in isolated communities that were never rich enough to travel to see these works at the time? Highly-regarded is the same issue in that it depends on who is saying one person is highly-regarded over another. (This becomes pov.)
  3. Although they achieve nothing on the page, exactly because they achieve nothing in the page, it is ok to keep them. And because it improves editing, it is great to have them.
  4. I have changed the quotation template to indicate a difference from the rest of the quotes in the article
  5. Ok, the sentence maybe syntactically correct, but it is confusing. The reader may interpret the sentence as the restorers may have reasoned that Michelangelo himself have made mistakes with this art/works. (talk) 03:45, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
  • "famous". By the time you wrote this, I had responded by changing the the word that describes the artists other than Michelangelo, in agreement. They were, however, the most highly regarded Renaissance painters of their time, which is why they got the commission. I have added the words "in Italy" to make this clear. They were all about 3-5 years older than Leonardo da Vinci, who was not included in the commission, not having an equal standing at that time. (rather unfortunate from our present POV).
  • With regards to your point about the masses in China and the poor in (Renaissance?) Italy, these are non-sensical arguments. Fame is a comparative thing. It is not about who "doesn't know" the person. It is about how they stand among others of the same profession. Among painters, sculptors, Michelangelo is one of the most famous of all time. In other words, his fame as a painter is greater than that of any artists except Leonardo da Vinci. His fame as the sculptor of "David" and the "Pieta" exceeds that of any other sculptor in the world.
  • On the subject of fame, there were queens of Egypt, but the name of only one is so well known that people name pussy-cats after her. There have been many English damatists, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest. There have been many peace-makers during the 20th century, but the fame of one humble little Indian outstrips any other. These are the truly famous.
Although Wikipedia discourages the use of so-called "Peacock words" in general, there are places for a terms like "most famous", "renowned" and "unique". These places are when the statement is beyond any doubt true. In the case of the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, there are only two other painted works which equal or surpass their fame- Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" and "Last Supper".
  • The reason why this restoration warrants a whole article all to itself is simply because of the enormous fame of the artwork. Other ceilings get restored all the time without comment. The restoration of the long painted ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, for example, happened without huge publicity. The ceiling in the main chamber of the Doge's Palace in Venice was taken down bit by bit and restored, without dispute or international publicity.... and so on. The entire Arena Chapel was fully restored with little publicity. Yet the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling was subject to scrutiny, to countless articles and a huge amount of criticism. Why? Because of its singular significance and enormous fame. (In fact, the Arena Chapel was equally influential in the development of painting, but in terms of pure "fame", not nearly as well known to the general public.)
Let me make this point clearly. This article concerns the restoration of the World's most significant large fresco cycle. (Leonardo's The Last Supper is the most significant individual mural painting). For a wikipedia writer of this article not to make the point that this frescoed ceiling is of unprecedented artistic significance would be a failure on the part of the wiki editor, and reduce the credibility of the article as a whole.
  • With regards to the spacing, there are editors who go around systematically removing them. It's considered undersirable formatting. If there are only a few, they get left. If there are lots, they will all be ruthlessly removed. For that reason, I usually only include them at the beginning of a paragraph.
  • I have made a slight adjustment to the "who?" paragrph which I think makes it clear.
Amandajm (talk) 06:56, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
I noticed you didn't revert any of my changes, so I won't go further, unless you implore me to reply to your counterarguements. (talk) 08:45, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Not a quotation[edit]

Please stop treating my summary as if it is a quotation. Amandajm (talk) 17:23, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

need help on a hint.[edit]

I don't know where to post it but I saw it here and I post it here.

Human eye has a gaussian response centered to green.

Prophet Daniel painting has a greenish tint on yellow shadows. This was probably done from the artist to simulate real world human eye response under dark conditions. I agree that most of the green shadowing should have been darkened w. carbon on top of it. all light reflecting on the green colour behind the carbon emulates what eye actually sees. Adds to the realism.

Same applies to meauve to red shadowing. Blue is one of the first colors to lose in the dark. Most pigments reflect multiple wavelenghts, meauve reflects red and blue. Blue is lost in the shadows. shadow colored red then darkened, emulates meauve shadowed flawlessly.

I have to agree with the critics on this as well, as again with the carbon black detail loss. Remember, what's in Wikipedia is free for use. Makrisj (talk) 23:40, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

I take it that the point that you are making here is that Michelangelo was very well aware of what colours to use in the shadows to draw an appropriate response from the eye. I would agree.
It's not just Michelangelo who used colourful shadows in this way. I was looking a few weeks ago at the San Benedetto Altarpiece by Lorenzo Monaco, painted 100 years before the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and observing that the artist had done the same thing.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, during the day, is rarely dark, even on overcast days, because of the large size of the windows that illuminate it. The only areas that are hard to see are the lunettes above the tops of the windows. Michelangelo painted the scenes on such a large scale that visibility wasn't ever a problem.
It was quite usual for artists working in tempera and oil paint to underpaint different areas such as shadows very intensely so that some of the colour showed through the upper layer.
You have prompted me to look at other fresco painters to see how they handled shadow. What I find is that it was not common practice among fresco painters to underpaint shadows in a different colour. Domenico Ghirlandaio, who was a teacher of Michelangelo, was technically a superb fresco painter, but did not employ this technique. His shadows are merely a darker shade of the same colour, with the shadows on green being darker green, the shadows on mauve being darker muddy mauve and the shadows on orange/yellow being reddish brown. There is no sign of referred colour and no brightness in the shadows. I have just checked out Giotto, Fra Angelico and Masaccio. Even though they all painted in tempera, none of them applied this underpainting technique to frescoes, with one exception. Where Lapis lazuli is used, it puts a very dense superficial layer on the fresco. It tends to flake off, showing that all the details were extensively underpainted in reddish brown or sepia before the blue was applied.
Amandajm (talk) 01:15, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Please move article[edit]

Please move the article to be titled "Conservation and restoration of the Sistine Chapel frescoes". This would be in keeping with the language developed around the article Conservation-restoration of cultural heritage. --RichardMcCoy (talk) 23:11, 9 April 2016 (UTC)