I cannot draw. Not even a stick figure. My wife, who is an exceptionally gifted artist, thinks I am a little slow, though that could be part of the definition of marriage. In any event, despite my handicap, I appreciate fine art. Emphasis on fine art. Not modern crap. I am talking legitimate recognizable masters. My wife for one (I include her since she is so talented and because I do desire to remain in the married state), and Michelangelo. The Renaissance genius’s talent has always resonated with me, probably because of my lack of talent. The same way I expect Michelangelo would appreciate my tax knowledge (“in your dreams” wife reminds me).
So on our trips to Italy, Grace and I cannot get enough of spending time with Michelangelo’s masterpieces. The Vatican Museum adjacent to St. Peter’s is a particular trove of Renaissance art, including Signor Buonarotti’s. Indeed the highlight of a visit to the Musei is the Sistine Chapel with its sweeping ceiling including the Creation and the Last Judgment on the wall.
Here is the tip of the day. First, get to the Museum early so that you are near the front of the line. Second, race through the Museum bypassing everything until you get to the Sistine. You will be tempted to loiter along the way but resist the temptation (remember you are in the Vatican; if you can’t resist temptation here, then there is no hope). Grace was growing aggravated as we leapt past treasure after treasure…until we got to the Chapel. We were the first ones there. And we were the only ones there for about a half hour. We had the place to ourselves. Eat your heart out, College of Cardinals!
We explored the Chapel from every angle. We made friends with the guard (lesson number three, to be explained momentarily). He showed us things we would not have discovered on our own, such as where in the Last Judgment panel the artist included his self-portrait. Heck, the guard encouraged us to lay on the floor in the center of the room, to get a true feel for the ceiling.
1. You are not supposed to be able to re-trace your steps once past the entrance into the Sistine. However by making friends with the guard, he happily shooed us back the way we came so that we could enjoy all the other treasures.
2. After we had finished the first half and were again back at the Sistine, the place was packed. Grace and I have been in Times Square on New Year’s Eve and it had nothing on this place. Being jostled about trying to crane your neck to look about in the press of humanity detracts significantly from the experience. The contrast with what we had experienced earlier is virtually too difficult to put into words.
3. For one day at least, my wife complimented me on not being a complete art idiot. “You were right,” she kissed me as we left the Museo Vaticano and though still artistically deprived, I felt ten feet tall.
To see the Sistine Chapel, check out the Vatican's virtual tour - it is quite impressive! And look for Michelangelo's depiction of himself on the wall above the altar. Don't forget to aim your cursor up too so you don't miss the masterpieces there. It will take about a minute to load into your browser but it is worth the wait.