Michelangelo Buonarroti: Restoration of the Frescoes on the Vaulted Ceiling and the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel

Gianluigi Colalucci


The last restoration of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel was directed and conducted by the internal staff of the Vatican Museums, in the period from June 1980 to April 1994. The historical importance of this restoration is found in the recovery of the unexpected chromatic tones used by Michelangelo and hidden for centuries by the dust, black smoke and grease produced by candles and braziers, and by the animal glue, gum resin and ox bile used by restorers in the past to revive the colors. The important result was obtained without any risk, thanks to developments in the field of methods and materials, the progress made in diagnostics, and the elaboration of a theory of restoration (Brandi C. 1950) which still acts as a support to the scientific and technical guidelines used in restoration today. The good preservation of the frescoes in the Chapel is entrusted to a filter and air conditioning system which was renewed and upgraded in 2015, and to modern LED lighting installed in the same year. The cleaning of the frescoes, which were almost perfectly preserved thanks to Michelangelo’s technique, allowed us to study the artist’s painting technique and to learn that some of the techniques he employed in marble sculpting were applied to his painting, and that he introduced novel methods, such as the technique used to give three-dimensionality to figures or his particular brushstrokes, which anticipated divisionism and pointillism.


restoration; fresco; vault; Sistine; Michelangelo


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DOI: 10.6092/issn.1973-9494/7166


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