In Focus: The £16,500 book that’s a perfect 1:1 scale reproduction of the Sistine Chapel frescoes

Michaelangelo's great masterpiece, the frescoes that adorn the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, has been reproduced in a quite extraordinary volume of books. Annunciata Elwes takes a look.

A gargantuan three-volume publication depicting Michelangelo and other Renaissance Masters’ works from the Sistine Chapel in 1:1 scale has been produced as part of the Vatican’s ongoing conservation work, in an English-language edition of 600.

Credit: Callaway Arts and Entertainment

Already dubbed ‘the museum without walls’ and ‘probably the most lavish book produced in the western world’, the 822-page, 24in by 17in trilogy was created using 270,000 images, colour matched to 99.4% accuracy, taken by photographers over the course of 67 nights, digitally stitched together with 3D reconstruction software.

Each of the three volumes weighs an astonishing two stone (28lb/12.7kg).

Credit: Ghigo Roli / Callaway Arts and Entertainment

A pair of white-cotton gloves is provided with each set for handling and a portion of the hefty £16,500 price tag goes to the Vatican Museums.

‘These magnificent volumes can serve as a tonic for the soul,’ says art historian and dealer Robert Simon. ‘Whether seen as a triumph of photography, a monument of scholarship, or a luxurious asset, this is a work to covet.’

Credit: Callaway Arts and Entertainment

It’s ‘a collector’s dream’, adds Manuela Roosevelt, editorial director at publisher Callaway, ‘the first opportunity in history for viewers to see the frescos as Michelangelo and the other artists painted them, with images so detailed and sharp and immersive that you feel that you are there next to the artist, seeing in extreme close-up the precise colours, textures, even the artists’ individual brush strokes’.

This extraordinary work is available via New York-based Callaway Arts and Entertainment and Philip Mould & Co in London.

Credit: Ghigo Roli / Callaway Arts and Entertainment

‘This is new ground for us, but I was astonished,’ says Mould, an art dealer and presenter of the BBC art show Fake or Fortune.

‘In many ways these volumes are more rewarding than being in the Sistine Chapel itself — I never thought a printed page could be so visually revealing.

Credit: Callaway Arts and Entertainment

‘You are not just able to linger on the acts of beauty like never before, but the illusion behind them — the drawing lines, pigments, and elusive feats of aerial artistry.

‘To a connoisseur wishing to get grips with the techniques of some of the Renaissance greats, to art historians, or to anybody with mere curiosity of the secrets behind the act of artistic genius, these books will have a transformative impact.

Credit: Callaway Arts and Entertainment

‘As a monument of scholarship, or a luxurious asset, this is a work to covet and, for the fortunate, to own.’

You can buy a copy of this extraordinary work via Philip Mould & Co in St James’s, London SW1 (www.philipmould.com) or Callaway Arts and Entertainment in New York (www.callaway.com/sistinechapel).


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