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iGuzzini illuminates the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica

Rome, Italy

Four different light scenes to enhance Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece

The Fabbrica di San Pietro has chosen iGuzzini to renew the lighting of one of the most famous artworks in the world, housed in the Chapel of the Crucifix in St. Peter’s Basilica: Michelangelo’s Pietà. The new lighting system, designed by the Milan-based studio, Rossi Bianchi lighting design, will replace the previous in order to improve visitors’ experience of this renaissance masterpiece thanks to innovative smart solutions based on the recent technological developments in LED lighting.

“All the know-how we have gained since the 1990s when we lit the Bernini and Canova sculptures in the Galleria Borghese has been put at the service of the Fabric of Saint Peter in order to use light to enhance Michelangelo’s Pietà, one of the most evocative works in the history of art,” commented Adolfo Guzzini, President of iGuzzini illuminazione. “iGuzzini has always put its light culture at the service of the universal value of beauty, to benefit people in Italy and around the world. Today, at St. Peter’s too, sculptural art lives again thanks to our skill in balancing light in order to emphasise the plasticity of the sculpture and create a ‘perfect light’ on the marble as Giulio Carlo Argan described it in the Canova in Rome exhibition we illuminated.”

In addition to replacing the previous luminaires with new, latest generation LED spotlights, the new lighting project also stands out thanks to four different lighting scenes that can be called on simply and intuitively to accommodate different visual activities and requirements. The individual scenes are created using compact solutions that take up minimal visual space and feature warm white tones (3000K) and high colour rendering levels that enhance the contours of the artwork and the shine of its marble. The overall aim is to create a consistent view of the entire work, so that all visitors can see and appreciate every detail of this unique masterpiece.

“The new lighting system that has also been improved from a scientific point of view, allows Michelangelo’s masterpiece to be better appreciated and its universal value to be better understood” declared the Most Reverend Cardinal Angelo Comastri. “The Pietà, in fact, is Michelangelo’s faith sculpted in marble, as the Virgin Mary’s youthful face is a highly contemporary message from the artist showing how avoiding sin is the only way to be truly beautifully and eternally young.”

Thanks to the DALI control system, the light fittings are divided into groups that can be switched on separately and adjusted in terms of light intensity to allow the system to create different light scenes, which to clarify their exhibition uses have been named: ‘North Scene – Sculpture Focus’, ‘East Scene – Grazing Light‘, ‘South Scene – Full Light’ and ‘West Scene - Daily’.

North Scene - sculpture focus
In this scene the lighting is ideal for a close-up view of the sculpture that underlines its artistic value and enhances the visitor’s experience. Light is focused on the sculpture thanks to Palco spotlights mounted on tracks that run on either side of the pilasters, whereas the illumination for the floor, ceiling and backdrop is reduced to a minimum. In this scene there is no clear directionality. Instead there is a balance of chiaroscuro effects that enhances the sculpture’s plasticity and allows transiting visitors to appreciate both individual details and the incredible overall harmony of the artwork.
iGuzzini illuminates the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica
East scene - Grazing light
From the capital on the east side, this scene emits a light beam that illuminates La Pietà with a spectacular beam of light. The incidence angle is clear and there is a sharp contrast with the surrounding shadow. The subdued lighting of the vaults and backdrop creates a frame around the sculpture and vibrant reflections enhance the gleam of its marble to create a powerful visual effect with a strong emotional impact. The scene is created by crisscrossing the light beams with different dimming levels produced by the frontal Palco spotlights, while leaving the vaults and floor almost completely obscured.
iGuzzini illuminates the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica
South Scene - full light
In this scene all the luminaires are switched on. This means the sculpture is absolutely dazzling and becomes a source of light in itself. The vaults and floor are lit slightly less intensely as everything is focused on the beam of light that illuminates the sculpture. Compared to the previous scenes, the lighting of the central vault, arches and lateral vaults is more sustained. Frontal Palco spotlights also add to the grazing light.
iGuzzini illuminates the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica
West Scene - daily
This lighting scene is designed to enhance the visitor experience at St. Peter’s Basilica where La Pietà is viewed through a glass screen. This is why the lighting is frontal and created by the Palco projectors installed in groups of three on the pillars. The light beams are crisscrossed at symmetrical angles to highlight the sculpture’s plasticity. The central vault is lit evenly, whereas the arches and lateral barrel vaults are illuminated with a homogeneous, slightly less intense light, thanks to the combined use of Palco spotlights and linear Underscore lighting.
iGuzzini illuminates the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica
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