Every year, millions of people travel to Rome to experience iconic art, sculpture and architecture including the exquisite frescoes in the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel showcases the brilliance and artistry of what is considered Michelangelo’s finest work. It is said that Michaelangelo, himself, wrote of the hardships in the creation of these frescoes, describing the smell of the wet plaster combined with the heat of the environment making him sick. Despite the challenges of creating the frescoes, Michelangelo’s depictions of biblical pieces such as The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgement are considered masterpieces of the Renaissance.
A new themed exhibit is titled “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition”. It has been designed to provide visitors with a new perspective of Michaelangelo’s works whether you’ve seen them on location or not. The Sistine Chapel’s ceiling is curved, so an innovative printing technique brings 34 almost life-size (at least floor to ceiling within the exhibit) reproductions to life to give viewers a very close view of detail, brushstrokes and color used in the paintings. The exhibit is billed as “immersive” as the large canvases are accompanied by wall text, audio and video content.
What makes an exhibit immersive?
Immersive experiences use a blend of visuals, sound, and technology to deliver unforgettable and engaging experiences that pull viewers into the world around them. The elements of immersion tap into our senses and highlight sight, sound, touch, and smell to surround a person so that they feel like they are fully active and engaged in the medium. Different technologies work together to create such an environment and can include video projection aping, audio programs, scent machines, 4D atmospherics (rain spray, vapor), VR headsets, and light shows to name a few. An immersive exhibition is a highly curated, highly designed genre applied to create an authentic representation of time, place, and aesthetics to take a participant beyond their field of vision. Participatory, experiential art and interactive installations envelop visitors in multi-sensory environments that bridge cultural immersion with entertainment.
But what does the Sistine Chapel Smell Like?
There is a famous line memorialized in the movie Good Will Hunting in which a point is made regarding the difference between knowing something and experiencing it. In a defining moment within the movie, a student’s mentor provides perspective in truly understanding something when it is asserted, “But I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.” This same principle has sparked our feverish curiosity for creating realistic experiences.
SensoryCo creates authentic smells for museums, themed environments, and exhibits to provide memorable guest experiences. Introducing authentic smells for museum atmospherics can breathe a sense of authenticity and life into museum exhibits by creating, comprehensive, immersive engagement opportunities.
“Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about these amazing pieces and the information and visual effect is delivered expertly. The exhibit does truly provide a unique perspective of Michelangelo’s frescoe. Yet, SensoryCo scent “sommeliers” can’t help but wonder what the Sistine Chapel smelled like. It is known that smells touch upon our memories as well as create moods so what might the introduction of SensoryCo’s scent systems add to this immersive exhibit? We wonder if the experience included the unpleasant smell of wet plaster experienced by Michelangelo, would it enhance the understanding of how difficult, so brilliant, this undertaking truly was? Would this layer of sensory stimulation be off-putting to such an exhibit? Or could a pleasant smell, actually be custom designed? Or might a beautiful scent replicate to uplift the visitor experience? And what would we imagine the Sistine Chapel would smell like to trigger the most positive or authentic viewer response? Warm, spicy, sweet fragrances such as Frankincense and myrrh as often used in many Catholic Churches? The possibilities are endless and leave us wanting to partner with more curators and production houses to complete the overall experience.