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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

The Sistine Chapel Comes Alive in Tyson's Corner, Virginia

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition came to Tyson's Corner, Virginia, and dear friend, Kate Coleman, Shelly, and I toured it today. I enjoyed it to a degree, but was also disappointed.

When Shelly and I visited the actual Sistine Chapel at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Italy, we were part of a huge crowd and ushered through quickly. It was extremely difficult to view its magnificence. Since the frescos are on the ceiling, we could not effectively look up and move forward at the same time. So we were both looking forward to this exhibit to see the details of what we missed.

What I liked was all the panels of the Sistine Chapel were presented in life-size and up close. We were able to stand a few feet away from the frescos and see the vibrant colors and incredible detail. I also enjoyed the smartphone app (it's an additional $3.00 charge) that provided detailed, audio descriptions and analysis of each panel. Here's the panel of The Creation of Adam.

What disappointed me was:

  1. The layout of the fresco panels in the exhibit was not conducive to viewing them in the order presented by the website audio descriptions. For example, the central 9 panels represent scenes from the book of Genesis. However, in the exhibit, these panels were located in different rooms. So we spent time hunting and finding the panels to view them in order. Eventually, we just viewed all the panels in one room, then moved to another room. For example, we viewed and listened to The Creation of the Sun, Moon and Plants fresco and then that of the prophet Ezekiel. I am sure there was some logic in the order, but it was lost on me.

  2. The exhibit was too crowded. It was sometimes difficult to view the panels around the people standing in the way.

  3. There are just two small benches in the entire exhibit, so you will need to stand a lot.

  4. The actual Sistine Chapel frescos are on the ceiling. The exhibit presented all of them on walls. I saw some photos on the exhibit website that show a wall and ceiling layout in a long corridor. This is probably because of the physical layout of the space in the Tyson's Corner mall. But it takes away some realism. It would have been neat to walk down a corridor and see the frescos up close in a way that depicts the actual orientation and layout. See below for a photo of how it was presented in other cities:

The price of a ticket was only $21, including service fees. We enjoyed the exhibit for about 90 minutes. I'd say it was worth the money despite my list of disappointments. I learned some things about Michelangelo, and even more about the frescos. So I recommend seeing the exhibit.

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