The prophet Joel recently emerged in brilliant color on the freshly cleaned ceiling of the Sistine Chapel—with honey-colored tunic, scarlet scarf and mint-green cloak lined with pomegranate billowing about his knees.a Artists and art historians reacted with disbelief. They proclaimed these glowing colors in unusual combinations “un-Michelangelesque.” For years they had been saying that Michelangelo painted in subdued tones, as if he were representing sculptures, rather than using flesh hues and intense local colors.
A storm of criticism of the Sistine ceiling’s cleaning has rumbled out of the art world. The critics contend that the cleaning process is actually destroying Michelangelo, leaving us with only the beginning stages of what he was doing, having removed his own corrections and modulations. They warn that what we now see may be subject to further deterioration, because of the continuing action of the cleaning compound.