The Sistine Chapel like you've never seen it before: from Australia to Mexico, Shanghai to New York, and more than 60 cities in between; a unique exhibit is giving visitors an up close and personal look at Michelangelo's vision of the creation story.
When Michelangelo brought the Bible to life some 500 years ago, it's hard to imagine he thought his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel would ever make its way from the Vatican to a shopping mall in Richmond, Virginia, but that's where CBN News caught the exhibition before it left Virginia for New Mexico.
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In 1965, Charlton Heston's portrayal of a 33-year-old Michelangelo Buonarotti in "The Agony and the Ecstasy," transported the Sistine Chapel to the silver screen. Now, a roving, global exhibit is bringing visitors face-to-face with the Italian artist's visualization of the Book of Genesis.
"It's almost as if we're looking at God creating the world, the beginning of Genesis, and we're seeing the cornucopia the richness of God's creation unfolding in front of us," said Professor William E. Wallace, a Michelangelo expert from Washington University in St. Louis.
"Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition" began traversing the world in 2015, and is set to hit 80 cities by the end of this year. From the creation of Adam depicting the hand of God brush strokes away from Adam's hand to the downfall of mankind; nine scenes from the Bible are brought to life in up close and personal detail. "It gives me the chills," said Giselle Villalta, an exhibition host. "It truly gave me anxiety to see how close but not quite touching their fingers were," she said.
There's no need for a deep background in art history to appreciate this masterpiece. Even Tiffany Harris, an exhibition host who insisted she knew nothing about the Italian artist or the Sistine Chapel had her favorites, showing CBN News the details of in-your-face paintings at the exhibit. "There's a guy in the back here," she pointed out, adding "you won't be able to see that 60 feet up in Italy."
The cracked fresco shown in vivid relief reveals everything from the pained look of Adam; banished from the Garden of Eden to the Great Flood. "Many of [the visitors] say that they weren't able to see the ceiling clearly because it was so high up or they didn't have enough time to really look at the ceiling," said Villalta.
It's a level of access to world-famous paintings that even connoisseurs can appreciate. "I've been [to the Sistine Chapel in Rome] 55 times in my life, and it never fails to astonish me every time I go in," said Professor Wallace, who has written eight books on the sculptor-turned-painter.
"Michelangelo is an artist who goes from zero to 60 in less than a second," said Wallace, adding "he just is capable of undertaking monumental tasks and carrying them out so that suddenly the artist who's never even painted a fresco paints the most important fresco in the world."
Some of the brass tacks of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City: the vault itself is nearly seven stories high, with some five-thousand square feet of painting, and even on a curved ceiling, Michelangelo achieves a three-dimensional effect. "The technical challenges are astronomical, and it's just amazing how well he solved all of them," said Wallace.
Whether you're religious or not, Michelangelo's image of God creating man is the ultimate symbol of the creation story. There's a scene in "The Agony and the Ecstasy," when after years of agonizing struggle, Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison) surveys the finished Sistine Chapel with Heston's Michelangelo. "What you have painted there my son is not a portrait of God," the Pope tells Michelangelo, "It's a proof of faith." An indelible legacy from the artist who created one of the most famous works of art in the world.