Netflix Perfectly Replicated Sistine Chapel, Then Destroyed The $5M Masterpiece
By Mikelle Leow, 24 Aug 2022
The Vatican has been famously particular about photography in the Sistine Chapel, let alone having it filmed. So, what was Netflix to do to include it in 2019’s The Two Popes?
Simple. It recreated the entire set, which obviously was easier said than done. To bring it to life, the movie’s production designer Mark Tildesley engaged a team of artists who were adept at reproducing classical artworks. Netflix’s budget for the backdrop was a cool US$5 million.
The artists first painted the figures identified on the mural, before photographing the work and printing it on plastic film. This plastic film was used to transfer, or “tattoo,” the pigment onto the walls with a chemical substance, just like how real frescoes are made. The result was a majestic, illuminating floor-to-ceiling reproduction with a vibrancy almost like the 1980s restoration of the chapel.
It was a few inches larger than the original, but nevertheless, Netflix’s recreation came impeccably close to the real deal.
Which was why it was so heartbreaking for The Two Popes writer Anthony McCarten to witness it being destroyed soon after filming concluded. To him, the ravaging of the replica was a “crime,” he told Artnet News.
The streaming giant didn’t hesitate to destroy the painstaking project since the artwork was too large to travel. In spite of the effort poured into the work, it would become “rubble within an hour,” McCarten lamented.
Why Netflix didn’t give the Sistine Chapel recreations a second life by breaking them up and getting a buyer is a mystery. Perhaps it was out of respect for the church, but McCarten noted that destroying sets—no matter how deliberate they are—is commonplace in the film industry. Though, there’s certainly a market for Michelangelo artifacts as well as demand for pop-culture memorabilia, as Artnet News found out.
McCarten himself would have loved to acquire the end panel of the work, which was a one-to-one copy of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.
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