Art lovers can now take in the Sistine Chapel’s sprawling painted ceiling with ease, thanks to a new installation of 7,000 LED lights. Viewers have been admiring Michelangelo’s 16th century fresco in dimly lit conditions since the 1980s, when the Vatican blocked off the windows due to light damage to the paintings. Next month, according to the Wall Street Journal, the chapel ceiling will be fully illuminated with LEDs, allowing visitors to see every detail and nuance painted by Michelangelo’s hand—without damage to the artwork.
For centuries, visitors could appreciate Michelangelo’s paintings lit from the same light source he painted from—a line of windows along the building’s façade. Vatican officials and art conservators found the direct sun to be potentially damaging to the fresco, so in the 1980s the windows were blocked off. Halogen light bulbs were installed to illuminate the ceiling, but the bulbs failed to preserve the richness of Michelangelo’s colors for the visitors below.
With the new LED lighting system, which will affix 7,000 LED bulbs to the perimeter of the chapel, visitors will be able to experience the fresco as Michelangelo intended. The Renaissance painter adjusted shapes and colors taking into account the shape of the ceiling, and so the piece must be lit to accommodate this.
The Vatican has teamed up with German lighting company Osram, who have designed an interactive LED system that combines colors to bring out the true tones of the fresco. The LEDs will not only not fade the painting’s rich colors, but also have a long life themselves.
Via The Atlantic