Editorial Feature

10 Astonishing Ceilings You Can See Up Close

Appreciate these extraordinary works of art, without having to crane your neck

There are a lot of beautiful and sophisticated ceilings in buildings all around the world, but they're normally so high up that you can't see the elaborate details and embellishments. Plus, there's only so long you can look up before you're neck starts to ache.

Here are 10 impressive ceilings that you can admire up close, without the crick.

1. Quire Ceiling, by William Blake Richmond

In the mid-19th century, Queen Victoria suggested that St Paul's Cathedral in London could do with a makeover. The resulting design by William Blake Richmond is made up of millions of tesserae of glass and gold leaf, and depicts classical cultures and traditional Christian iconography. Click to zoom in and see the story of creation in mosaic.

2. Sala di Amore e Psiche, by Giulio Romano

The ceiling of the Chamber of Cupid and Psyche in Palazzo Te in Mantua, Italy, is named after the dramatic love story from the 2nd-century book Metamorphoses. You can also spot scenes from other mythological tales, such as Bacchus and Ariadne, and Venus and Adonis. And don't worry — the ceiling only appears as if it is falling thanks to the geometric variations of its design.

3. Zucchi Ceiling, by Antonio Zucchi

Situated in the Adam Library of Kenwood House in London, the pale pink and blue design of this ceiling incorporates 13 classical oil paintings by Antonio Zucchi and intricate plasterwork by Joseph Rose. Zoom in and look out for festoons, demi-boys, swans and vases among the filigree.

4. Wazir Khan Mosque

The interior of the Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan is intricately decorated with Mughal-era frescoes and faience tile work — a type of fine tin-glazed pottery on delicate pale buff earthenware — known as kashi-kari. The Mosque is considered to be the most ornately decorated Mughal-era mosque, so zoom in to see why!

5. Ceiling of the Hungarian State Opera, by Károly Lotz

This ceiling, known as the Apotheosis of Music, sits amidst the fusion of neo-Renaissance and Baroque styles in the Hungarian State Opera House, and details the Greek Gods on Mount Olympus. If you look closely you can see Apollo playing the lute surrounded by the gods, graces, muses and demons.

6. The Burgtheatre's State Staircase

The panels of this ceiling comprise of early work by Gustav and Ernst Klimt, and Frank Matsch — a turning point in the young artists' careers. The artwork portrays the history of the theatre: on the right you can see the evolution of the theatre itself and three classical playwrights; and on the left, the themes of music, dance and plays.

7. The Ceiling of the Paris Opera, by Marc Chagall

This circular design from the ceiling of the Paris Opera consists of 12 canvas panels and a round central panel, awash with Marc Chagall's colorful painting. The designs represent different composers and their works. See if you can recognise Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, Mozart's The Magic Flute and Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette

8. Israeli Lounge Ceiling Panels, by Shraga Weil

This vivid, abstract mural painted by Israeli artist Shraga Weil, located in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is made up of 40 wooden ceiling panels decorated with acrylic paints and 22-carat gold leaf. Look closely to see the illustrations of musical events described in the Old Testament and images from the present era.

9. Carnegie Hall Ceiling, by William Burnet Tuthill

More than just pleasing to the eye, this stunning ceiling was designed to have the best acoustics possible to suit its position in the main auditorium of New York's Carnegie Hall. The different sections reflect sounds to different parts of the theatre and contain hundreds of discreetly placed slots as part of a state-of-the-art cooling system. Can you make them out?

10. Hintze Hall Ceiling

Dating back to 1881, the ceiling panels of the Natural History Museum's Hintze Hall are hand-illustrated with a huge array of plant species. If you zoom in you can see varieties such as lemon and pear trees, tobacco plants and rhodendrons — among many, many more. How many types can you spot?

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