A series of four books presented Tuesday at the Vatican seeks to explain how Michelangelo and other artists translated the Bible into images to produce in the Sistine Chapel some of the world's most renowned frescoes.
The first volume focuses on Michelangelo's ceiling and its scenes from the book of Genesis and the creation of the world. Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci said the volume offers a "basic code" to understand the symbols and scenes that adorn the room where popes are elected.
"Everybody knows the Sistine Chapel, but how many can recognize the scenes?" Paolucci said Tuesday at a book launch just steps away from the Sistine Chapel. He said the book succeeds in clarifying "the infinite forest of symbols that are all linked to each other" in the ceiling that the Renaissance master painted between 1508-12.
The series is called "The Painted Word" and is published by the Vatican Museums' publisher along with Italian daily Il Sole 24Ore. The first installment, a coffee-table volume rich in photos, comes out on Friday. Two more will follow focusing on the wall paintings by 15th-century artists such as Sandro Botticelli, and the series will end Dec. 11 with a volume on Michelangelo's Last Judgment.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums, which gather hundreds of artworks from painters including Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Over 4 million people visit the Vatican Museums every year.