When Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he did so, for the most part, using the light of the sun that streamed through the windows of the building. And for the past 500 years since then, viewers have admired the results of that work, for the most part, with the help of that same light source. It wasn’t until the 1980s that, concerned about solar radiation damaging the frescos' paint, Vatican officials blocked off the chapel's windows. In their place they installed a system of halogen light bulbs that emitted pigment-preserving, low-energy light.
That switch, however, has made viewing the Sistine Chapel something of a difficulty for visitors. The chapel's ceiling is 6,135 square feet in area; viewers observe its expanse from the ground. All the details Michelangelo included in his fresco—arms lifted, fingers stretched—tend, from that distance, to blur and fade.
Enter light. Another kind of light.
Next month, the Wall Street Journal reports, the famous ceiling will be getting a new look in the form of new lights. Some 7,000 LEDs, to be precise—with fixtures that will be studded around the perimeter of the chapel. The German lighting manufacturer Osram, which is providing the lights to the Vatican, custom-designed an illumination system for the Sistine project—one that involves dozens of miniature tripods, anchored into the crevices of the ledge that runs around the chapel walls.