Architects Guide to Glass, USGlass

Glass in Full Glory?

I saw something last month that really bothered me—so much so that my mind keeps coming back to it over and over again. I try to put it out of my head, but it’s haunting me and I just can’t shake it, because I need your help to fix it.

Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City houses St. Peter's Baslica, home of some of the greatest art treasures in the world.
Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City houses St. Peter’s Baslica, home of some of the greatest art treasures in the world.

Let me explain. I was fortunate to take two great trips this summer—the first one through some great cities in Europe, which included fulfilling a lifelong desire to visit Vatican City.

This includes Michelangelo's Pieta on display. Note the butt joints.
This includes Michelangelo’s Pieta on display.

The second was the annual trip my sister and I (the two crazy aunts) take with their nephew Kevin (who, of course is perfect in every way) every year—but more on that next week. Let’s start with the Vatican visit, because that is what is haunting me.

The Vatican itself is a living Holy building, as well as a museum of history, art and cultures. In addition to the Sistine Chapel, which is commonly known as the world’s greatest artwork, I was anxious to see Michelangelo’s Pieta again. I had viewed it as kindergartener in 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York. I remember how quiet the room was, how people gasped when they saw it and how real the tears on the Virgin Mary’s face looked.  Here’s how the Reuters news service describes it:

The statue is so lifelike that a viewer can almost feel the curls of the dead Christ’s hair and the softness of the Madonna’s lips. The veins in Christ’s muscular arms seem to be still holding blood. The folds in the Madonna’s veil seem made of muslin rather than marble.

When art historian Giorgio Vasari saw the statue in 1550 he wrote in his book about the lives of artists.

“It is a miracle that a rock, which before was without form, can take on such perfection that even nature sometimes struggles to create in the flesh.”

Note the placement of the butt joints.
Note the placement of the butt joints.

“It was damaged, you know,” said our guide Serena as she led us to it on the first floor of Saint Peter’s Basilica, referring to the 1972 attack on the sculpture that did quite a bit of damage. It is now more closely guarded and can only be viewed from 20 feet away, behind glass. “It has been restored and it is protected now, so you can’t go right up to it, because it has to be secure.”

I felt a bit of pride in my chest, because I expected and knew that it would be surrounded by glass–which would give hoards of tourists a great view while protecting the artwork. So I turned to look, and I haven’t been able to get the image I saw out of my head since.

There, smack dab in the image area is a butt joint filled with silicone. I keep seeing it over and over for weeks now, thinking that surely we can do better than this. Surely, we could get a larger lite OR divide the opening into three, with the largest lite in the center. I know our industry can do better.

So, I am asking your help. I don’t know how yet, but if we can find a way to fix it, I will contact that Powers that be and try to get it done.

It’s a beautiful, evocative piece of art, and it should be viewed in all its glory through glass in all its glory as well. Can we fix this?