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Discover the Most Valuable Vatican Museum Art!

Introduction

The Vatican Museum in Vatican City houses one of the most impressive art collections in the world. 

The museum is an exciting place to visit, with over 70,000 works and a crowd of millions of visitors yearly.

Among the vast treasures, the piece that stands out as the most valuable is Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!

Read further to discover why these artworks are so famous and other must-explore art in the Vatican Museum!  

Why is the Sistine Chapel Ceiling considered the most Valued Art in the Vatican?

The Sistine Chapel is a part of the Vatican Museum.

It houses the most famous series of artworks by Michelangelo in the Vatican on the ceiling.

There are several reasons why Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes are the Museum’ most valuable artwork:

1. The Significance of Michelangelo’s Ceiling Frescos

The frescoes by Michelangelo have had a profound influence on countless artists of subsequent generations. 

Through the use of Renaissance style, these ceiling frescoes depict biblical religious figures. 

Observing the lifelike frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling allows one to delve deep into the Catholic faith. 

The figures, colors, and dramatic gestures portrayed in these frescoes adhere to the realistic ideals of the Renaissance. 

This remarkable artwork possesses the power to evoke strong emotions, even in non-believers and visitors of different religions.

  • About the Artist: Michelangelo Buonarroti 
Michelangelo Buonarroti 
Image: Britannica.com

Michelangelo Buonarroti, along with Leonardo and Raphael, was a top-tier Renaissance artist. 

He is famous worldwide for his Sistine Chapel paintings, but he was also a popular architect and sculptor. 

One can admire his famous La Pieta sculpture and the architecture of the St. Peter’s Basilica Dome in Vatican City, which is only a few steps away from the museum. 

Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo for this work, and each piece is valuable due to his stunning technique. 

Michelangelo was just 33 years old when he began painting the captivating frescos on the Sistine Chapel, making this achievement even more impressive.

Read our article on Michelangelo in the Vatican to learn more about Michelangelo’s contribution to Vatican artwork.

2. Michelangelo’s Intriguing Buon Fresco and Secco Technique! 

The Buon Fresco technique used by Michelangelo in his Sistine Chapel work was challenging.

The extensive use of this technique made him famous immediately! 

It required him to paint directly onto the wet plaster walls of the ceiling.

He also incorporated the Secco Fresco technique, which includes painting small details onto a dried wall. 

Michelangelo created delicate details to make the human faces in the paintings.

Because of this technique, you can see realistic faces that convey all the emotions of the scene.  

The use of such techniques by a master like Michelangelo makes Sistine Chapel Frescoes the most valuable artwork inside Vatican Museums.

3. The Condition and Maintenance of the Ceiling Frescos

The frescoes remain well-preserved over the years, retaining their vivid colors and fine details! 

The first restoration was in 1547, by Paolo Giavio, who fixed the saltpeter damage on the frescos.

He used linseed and walnut oil to make the saltpeter deposit more transparent. 

For many years after, people would wipe down with a wet cloth to keep them clean and avoid the collection of dust. 

Annibale Mazzuoli and his son used Greek wine to clean the cracks in the ceiling.

They also repainted some fine details on the paintings. 

A few restorations were also conducted on the frescos in the 1980s when they were being damaged by ceiling water seepage. 

Don’t worry, even after these few restorations, the frescos look the same as they did when first painted by Michelangelo!

This increases their worth in the Vatican Museum and makes them the crown jewel of the attraction, with the title of the most valuable art in the museums.

4. Historical and Artistic Legacy 

Historical and Artistic Legacy 
Image: Piedmontexedra.com

The chapel frescoes have great historical importance, as the Vatican Museum is an admired landmark of artistic brilliance!

The frescos reflect the Renaissance’s beliefs, focusing on humanity’s power. 

Generations of artists have learned more from realistic Renaissance paintings!

You can see some shocking biblical themes, with important characters and events from the Bible. 

It also spreads the Biblical stories and Catholic beliefs to millions of people visiting every year, with its clear visual depictions!

Budding art students can learn so much more about Renaissance art and find creative ways to use new mediums to paint. 

How valuable are the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo Frescos? 

Considering the good condition, significance, and valuable influence of the Sistine Chapel frescos, it is impossible to put a price tag on them. 

Researchers believe that Michelangelo got 3000 ducats (around €416,000 today) to paint all the frescos in the Sistine Chapel.

But in today’s time, calculating how much the Sistine Chapel frescoes would cost is unimaginable. 

The ceiling artwork is also priceless to the Chapel, as it has deep religious significance. The Chapel is the spot for the Papal Conclave. 

The Vatican City Museum aims to provide unlimited access to religious and historical artifacts.  

On this basis, the frescoes have much more worth beyond any specific price. 

Which is the Most Famous Michelangelo Fresco on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling? 

Most Famous Michelangelo Fresco
Image: Blog.oup.com

The Sistine Chapel ceiling has around 343 human biblical figures by Michelangelo.

The Creation of Adam is the most famous fresco among all the brilliant artworks on the ceiling.

It is at the center of the ceiling, on the main panel, in the middle of the Separation of Land and Sea and Creation of Eve paintings. 

The painting depicts a nude image of a man reaching out his hand to the heavens.

On the other side, you can see God reaching out his hand to the man on earth and their fingers almost touching.

This painting builds on the ideals of Humanism, as humans were the closest beings to God in the Renaissance period. 

You can also see a famous depiction of the religious idea that man was created in the image and likeness of God!

Visitors will immediately recognize the Creation of Adam painting, as it appears in famous movies and literature. 

What is the most expensive artwork in the Vatican Museums? 

Most visitors believe that the most expensive artwork in the Vatican Museums is the beautiful fresco paintings by Michelangelo.

You might not be wrong, as these art pieces are irreplaceable, but did you ever imagine that the most expensive would be Nero’s Bathtub?

The Pio Clementino Museum is a famous part of the Vatican Museums, housing Greek and Roman art.

It houses this stunning Bathtub, which is believed to cost around €2 billion! 

Why is Nero’s Bathtub the most expensive artwork in the Vatican Museum? 

Nero’s Bathtub the most expensive artwork
Image: Twitter.com@10thLegio

There are many reasons why this simple bathtub is so expensive, read further to know some of them: 

1. History & Significance of Nero’s Bathtub

Nero’s Bathtub, or the Porphyry Basin, stands as a remarkable piece from the collection of the infamous Roman Emperor Nero, showcasing the lavish lifestyles of ancient Roman elites. 

Its rarity and the fact that it was meant for Nero’s Golden House, a grand palace designed for opulence and entertainment, underscore its significance. 

This bathtub symbolizes the extraordinary wealth and status of the Roman nobility, offering visitors a glimpse into the extravagant lives of historical figures. 

Its popularity is further heightened because it is one of the few remnants of the Domus Aurea, which Nero’s successors largely destroyed. 

This artifact not only fascinates history enthusiasts but also educates young visitors about the rich tales surrounding this luxurious item in the Vatican Museum.

Consider buying a  guided tour of the Vatican Museum as it helps you learn more about this artifact and other famous exhibits of Vatican Museums.

2. Size and Color of Nero’s Bathtub 

The Bathtub is massive in size and stands at the center of the Pio Clementino Museum inside the Vatican City Museum.

It is 1300 centimeters and 25 feet long, occupying the majority of space in the room. 

The Poryphyry basin is a deep purple color, symbolizing wealth in ancient Rome because of its rarity.

Purple dye was only used in the clothes of high-ranking officials because of its high cost and long-lasting nature.

Hence, the marble color is necessary when considering its value!

3. Materials used to craft the Bathtub

Materials used to craft the Bathtub
Image: Facebook.com@dailyhistorydrops

The size and history of Nero’s Bathtub are important when considering the price of the tub.

But the material it is made of is what makes it so costly! 

The Bathtub is a rare imperial porphyry marble with a unique purple shade, used by most Roman Emperors. 

This stone was famous and displayed the wealth of the Emperor because it was from Egypt. 

It is particularly famous because most emperors had small amounts of the marble used, but Nero had a 25-foot-long bathtub made with it!

Other famous Vatican Museum Artworks

The Vatican Museum has spectacular displays of art that are a must-see on your visit!

Now that you have seen the most valuable works in the museum, let’s look at some famous artwork on display.

The Vatican City Museum tickets give complete access to the museum.

It is best to explore all these pieces to get the best value for your money!

1. Last Judgment

Another famous piece by Michelangelo Buonarroti is the massive Last Judgment fresco!

You can see the details of this fresco up close, unlike the ceiling frescos, as it is on the Sistine Chapel’s Altar wall. 

Michelangelo shows Jesus and Mary standing at the center of the painting and delivering their final decision. 

This painting depicts a scene of the Second Coming from the Bible.

It conveys the emotions of all the people depicted. 

It is a must-see for literature lovers, as the painting references Dante’s Inferno!

Check out our Things to See in the Sistine Chapel article, to discover other famous artworks you should look out for when visiting the Chapel. 

2. St. Jerome in the Desert 

St. Jerome in the Desert 
Image: Museivaticani.va

The painting of St. Jerome in the Desert is the only artwork by Leonardo Da Vinci in the Vatican City. 

You can see the depiction of old St. Jerome worn out by his hard life, visible in his facial structure and sitting position. 

Visitors can learn so much about the lives of saints by observing this emotional piece.

You can see the saint holding a rock in hand, which he will use to hit his chest for penance. 

Animal lovers will enjoy seeing the details of the majestic lion at the feet of St. Jerome in Da Vinci’s painting.

This incomplete piece is on display in room 9, housing artworks from the 15th and 16th centuries. 

3. Deposition from the Cross

The greatest existing masterpiece by Caravaggio is the Deposition from the Cross painting in the Vatican!

The painting captures a unique scene from the Bible of Jesus’s limp body being placed inside the Tomb after his crucifixion.

He is surrounded by the Virgin Mary, John, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, and Cleophas’ wife, Mary, raising her hands behind them. 

You can see this beautiful work of realism in room 12, displaying 17th-century art. 

4. Transfiguration Painting 

Transfiguration Painting
Image: Museivaticani.va

The Vatican Museum is also famous for the four rooms filled with paintings by Raphael, having different themes. 

This is the last work done by Raphael before his death and his best work done in the Vatican.

The Transfiguration depicts a biblical scene of Jesus rising into heaven, with Moses and Elijah looking up at him.

At the base of the painting is another biblical scene of the apostles trying to heal a boy possessed by a demon.

You can see this beautiful piece in Raphael’s room 8, which displays 16th-century artwork. 

5. Laocoon & His Sons

This statue is one of the most famous pieces in the Vatican Museum and a favorite among all visitors!

You can see a depiction of Laocoon, a priest of Apollo in the city of Troy, forbidding his people to take the wooden horse into their castle.

Mythology and book lovers must see this sculpture in the Octagonal Court of the Vatican Museum.

You can see two detailed snakes wrapped around the body of Laocoon and his sons as well. 

6. Stefaneschi Triptych 

Stefaneschi Triptych
Image: Museivaticani.va

Triptychs are paintings divided into three sections, and the piece has different depictions on both sides. 

You can see many famous biblical figures on the Stefaneschi Triptych in room 2, displaying 13th to 15th-century artwork. 

We recommend all Catholics see this painting in the Vatican Museum!  

7. The Crucifixion of St. Peter

The Crucifixion of St. Peter painting by Guido Reni forces visitors to look at the figures in the foreground.

You can see a depiction of St. Peter hanging upside down on a cross as punishment for practicing his faith. 

The painting has a black background, and artists will love observing the details used in every muscle of St. Peter’s body!

The artist was highly influenced by Caravaggio’s techniques and style, making this painting his most famous one. 

You can see this masterpiece in room 12. 

8. Augustus from Prima Porta

Augustus from Prima Porta
Image: Museivaticani.va

The Vatican Museum, as you can see, has famous Greek and Roman sculptures that mythology lovers must see!

The statue of Emperor Augustus is famous for its powerful stance and detailed suit of armor.

You can see a depiction of mythological stories of Apollo, Gaia, and many other Greek Gods carved on Augustus’ armor.

This aesthetic sculpture is in the New Wing of the Vatican Museum. 

9. The School of Athens

After the Sistine Chapel and Nero’s Bathtub, the Raphael Rooms are the most famous part of the Vatican Museums.

The School of Athens is the most famous Greek painting that is used to teach philosophy worldwide!

You can see a realistic painting of Plato and Aristotle at the center, surrounded by other famous philosophers.

Visitors can also see a beautiful painting of Michelangelo in this piece, placed in the Room of the Segnatura. 

Check out our article on How to see the Vatican Museum in 2 hours so that you can explore all these masterpieces even on a time crunch! 

Tips to See the Most Valuable Art in the Vatican Museums

Here are some necessary tips to remember when planning your Vatican Museum art visit for the best experience! 

  • Book your Vatican Museum tickets in advance to save time and money!
  • Wear comfortable footwear, like sneakers or sandals. You can explore the museum for longer comfortably. 
  • Avoid using the flash when clicking photos in the Vatican Museum. You cannot take pictures in the Sistine Chapel. 
  • Plan your schedule to avoid the crowd.
  • Arrive early in the morning, when the Museum opens at 8.30 am, for the least crowd.
  • Dress appropriately following the Vatican dress code, as the guards at the entrance hold the right to deny you entry to the museums if you are not dressed accordingly.
  • If you arrive early in the morning, we recommend you begin your visit from the Sistine Chapel. It gets crowded later in the day. 
  • Take short breaks so you can absorb all the art and information you have seen. 
  • The Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tour provides the best experience to all history lovers. It is also great for kids! 

Conclusion

The Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes stand out as the most prized art pieces in the vast Vatican Museums.

This is because of their deep influence on art history and as they were by the Italian master Michelangelo! 

They are extremely valuable to the Vatican City as they were commissioned by the Pope and hold deep spiritual and biblical significance. 

Considering any other work to be equal to these frescos would be like asking to put a price on Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa!  

For the awe the frescos still evoke and the timeless inspiration they provide, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes are priceless pieces given to the world.

FAQs on Most Valuable Vatican Museum Art

1. What is the most expensive piece of art in the Vatican?

The most expensive piece of art in the Vatican is Nero’s Bathtub. It is made from Red Poryphryr and is believed to cost around €2 billion. 

2. What is the most famous piece in the Vatican Museum?

The most famous piece of art in the Vatican Museum is the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The ceiling has beautiful frescos by Michelangelo, the most famous being Creation of Adam. 

3. What is the art worth in the Vatican?

Most of the art in the Vatican is priceless, as it also has religious value. 

4. Are there any Da Vinci paintings in the Vatican?

Yes, the painting of St. Jerome in the Desert is by Da Vinci in the Vatican. You can see this painting in room 9. 

5. What is the purple marble in the Vatican?

The purple marble is Red Poryphryr from Egypt. Roman Emperors built things with this expensive material in their household.

The Vatican Museum has a huge Bathtub of Nero on display made of this purple marble. 

6. What is the cost of Vatican Museum tickets?

The standard Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel tickets cost €31 for adults. Children between 6 and 17 can visit for a discount of €20.

You can also take an informative Vatican Museum tour for €36! 

7. Who painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling?

Michelangelo Buonarroti painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

8. Are there other works by Michelangelo in Vatican City?

Yes, you can see the famous La Pieta sculpture and St. Peter’s Basilica Dome in the Vatican City.

9. Can I click photos of the valuable artwork in the Vatican Museums?

Yes, you can click photos of the artwork in the Vatican Museums. Avoid using the flash when clicking photos. You cannot click any photos in the Sistine Chapel. 

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