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Outline ReviewThe outrage that, two decades ago, greeted the plan to restore Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel seems absurd, now that they're on view in all their glory. The 150 absolutely magnificent color plates in this big, beautiful book are eloquent testimony to the project's utter success. Even two small patches of background sky, the "before" picture, gray and streaked, and the "after" picture, blue and clear, are thrilling. Two photographs are used almost as bookends: One of the huge fresco of the Last Judgment after cleaning, and one taken of the whole wall, from the same perspective, before. It is difficult to describe how different the wall is now. Perhaps chief restorer Gianluigi Colalucci expresses it best when he writes, "Today... it is clear how distorting that dark and irregular veil of discoloration had been. It extinguished the colors and confused the forms as it dampened their impact. It revealed only monumentality, and that false, dark melancholy that had a facile hold on the human soul." Colalucci had been the first to touch Michelangelo's ceiling--with a handkerchief dampened with saliva--and discover a deep yellow beneath the soot of centuries, so it seems fitting that he also has the last word in this book. There are two other essays besides his, one by Loren Partridge, an interpretation of the Last Judgment, and one on the history, technique, and restoration, by the late Fabrizio Mancinelli, of the Papal Museums. --Peggy Moorman
Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, painted on the rear wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, is considered by many to be the artist's greatest triumph as well as one of the most important works in the history of art. Here, the newly cleaned and restored fresco is presented in all its powerful complexity and brilliant color. The 150 magnificent full-color images show the work both in its entirety and in many splendid close-up details.
154 illustrations, 150 in full color, 9 3/4 x 12 5/8"
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