8 Incredible Decorated Ceilings

Things are looking up

By Google Arts & Culture

The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, RomeTouring Club Italiano

The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The crowning glory of all decorated ceilings. Michelangelo organised the painting of this papal chapel in 1508, when he was just 33. His design scheme was revolutionary. He did away with the flat, geometric decoration and introduced depth and drama to the Sistine Chapel.

Pai Michelangelo. Sistine Chapel.LIFE Photo Collection

The ceiling tells the story of the Bible from Genesis and the Creation of Adam, to The Last Judgement. But it wasn't without controversy: Michelangelo was criticised for his depiction of nudity. Some popes even threatened to remove the frescoes. Thankfully, the pictures remain.

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Before Michelangelo, there was Giotto. This early renaissance artist was described as the "sovereign master of painting", and this is his masterpiece: the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. The frescoes depict the lives of Christ and the Virgin, while the ceiling shows the heavens.

Banqueting House, London

In London, Banqueting House was built between 1619-22 as a grand hall for royal dances and dinners. It was commissioned by King Charles I, and designed by Inigo Jones in the new neo-classical style. It's a an architectural gem, but its real treasures are to be found inside.

Sparing no expense, Charles commissioned the Dutch artist Peter Paul Rubens to create a series of 9 paintings that commemorated the achievements of his father, James I & VI. These recently underwent restoration, and the results are magnificent.

An Allegory of Peace and the Arts (1635/1638) by Orazio Gentileschi and Artemisia GentileschiRoyal Collection Trust, UK

Queen's House, Greenwich

King Charles' wife, Henrietta Maria, also enjoyed splendour. She commissioned a new 'House of Delight' at Greenwich, today known as Queen's House. To decorate the ceiling, she chose Orazio Gentileschi, who was assisted by his young daughter Artemisia.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte set the trend for many European palaces of the Baroque era. Built between 1658-61 for Nicolas Fouquet, finance minister of Louis XIV, it is the culmination of a collaboration between architect Louis Le Vau and painter-decorator Charles Le Brun.

Today, the house is a national historic monument. One of the major attractions is this room, the Salon des Muses, with ceiling paintings from Le Brun's workshop. They depict the nine muses working in harmony to inspire artists.

Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versailles

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte was the direct inspiration for Louis XIV's own grand project: the Palace of Versailles. And there were no grander rooms than the Hall of Mirrors. This gallery was the crowning glory of the palace, and celebrated the achievements of the king.

The King Governs by Himself (1681-1684) by Charles Le BrunPalace of Versailles

Once again, Charles Le Brun was commissioned to create paintings for the vaulted ceiling. 30 painted compositions depict the glorious history of Louis XIV and his numerous political successes during the first 18 years of his reign.

Quire Ceiling (1904) by William Blake RichmondSt. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

In the mid-19th Century, it was felt that the interior decoration of St Paul's Cathedral was too plain. Even Queen Victoria herself remarked that the building was "dark, dingy and undevotional". Artist William Blake Richmond was hired to redecorate the Quire Ceiling.

St. Paul's Cathedral

Richmond's creation is out of this world. He chose to use mosaic tiles, in the style of Byzantine art, which shimmer under candle light. This panel, depicting God's creation of fishes and writhing creatures of the sea, was reportedly his favourite.

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