January 21, 2009

Irial Vets, Chapelle Sixtine / Sistine Chapel

this photo of Irial Vets (made in the 1980s/90s) 
courtesy of Francis David ¹

Irial Vets (1908-2001), who owned a restaurant in Trouville, Normandy, France, in his free time was a self-taught visual artist.

In 1968, when he was sixty years old, he saw an advertisement saying that an old chapel in the neighbourhood of Saint-Vincent-de-la Rivière near Broglie in Normandy was for sale. He bought the chapel because this would enable him to realise a dream he had: making a fair copy of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

For his project, which took him four years to complete, Irial Vets used photographs from a weekly magazine, but he also made a journey to Rome, to take a look at the original.

It has been said, that Vets´ copies of the paintings were very similar to those in the Sistine Chapel. Indeed, the photo above, made by Francis David and published on Instagram, confirms this.

On the internet there is one other picture of Vets' creation (in black and white), copied from the book by Clovis and Claude Prévost Les bâtisseurs de l'imaginaire.

In addition to his paintwork, Vets also made a sculpture showing him seated and as if in meditation, a sculpture that was placed at the outside of the building. He also made a tomb where he wanted to be buried, which hasn't happened, however.

On Sunday afternoons the chapel was open for the public and people liked to come and take a look.

The chapel has been whitewashed 

After Vets had passed away in 2001, the chapel was closed for the public. Some years later it has been sold to a private party. Dutch friends who inspected the site in 2006, informed me that Vets' paintings have disappeared: the interior of the chapel has been whitewashed, likely to facilitate the sale, which took place in 2007. In 2006 the sculpted items still were present.

Another replica of the Sixtine Chapel

Between 1987 and 1993 Gary Bevans from Goring-by-Sea, in South East England, decorated the ceiling of the local English Martyrs Catholic Church in the vein of the Sixtine Chapel.

¹ Francis David in the 1980s began visiting French creators of art environments and making pictures of their sites. In 2020 he added a selection of his photos to Instagram. Part of his collection is available on the website of the Lille Art Museum "Habitants-paysagistes"

Irial Vets
Chapelle Sixtine
Saint-Vincent-la-Rivière, dept Eure, region Normandy, France
painted ceiling doesn't exist anymore

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