- Fiat has commissioned Italian artist Nicola Verlato to paint the headliner of a 2014 Fiat 500L in the style of Renaissance frescoes.
- During the 2013 Los Angeles Auto show, Verlato will "pay homage to" Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel, using the Fiat's ceiling as a canvas.
- Those unable to attend the show can follow Verlato's daily progress online.
LOS ANGELES — In one of the stranger events at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, Fiat has commissioned Italian artist Nicola Verlato to paint the headliner of a 2014 Fiat 500L in the style of some of the most revered art works of the Renaissance era.
According to Fiat, Verlato will "pay homage to elements of Michelangelo's work inside the Sistine Chapel, using the ceiling of the all-new Fiat 500L as his canvas." The event will take place November 20-21, after which the car will remain on display for the remainder of the show, which runs through December 1.
Art lovers who are unable to attend in person may follow Verlato's daily progress on the Fiat brand's Web site where additional information about the project can also be found.
The artist's credentials are impressive enough. Verlato was born in Verona, Italy. He began painting in the studio of a nearby monastery at the age of 7, sold his first painting at 9 and had his first serious show at 15. After working in Verona and Milan for many years, he moved to the U.S. in 2004. His works have been exhibited in galleries worldwide.
The medium for Verlato's latest project, which started life as a standard, red 2014 Fiat 500L with a tan and dark gray interior, has been specially prepped for the project. Since a stock headliner is not particularly well suited to act as a canvas, a replacement was fabricated in fiberglass, coated to absorb paint.
To carry the historical theme further, the vehicle's seats have been removed and a special floor installed so that Verlato can work lying on his back, mimicking the way Michelangelo laid on scaffolding as he painted the venerable frescoes in the 16th century.
"The Fiat brand is about immersing oneself in Italian style, design and culture," said Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer for Chrysler Group LLC and head of Fiat Brand Worldwide. "We wanted to play with this concept by taking one of the most far-reaching pieces of old world art and combining it with the iconic new design of the Fiat 500L."
Francois is credited with playing a major role in revamping Chrysler's image following the company's 2009 bankruptcy. His "Born of Fire" ad featuring Eminem, which aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, and "Imported from Detroit" campaign have become textbook examples of effective marketing.
As global brand champion for Fiat, one of Francois' primary missions is to invigorate the company's core products with the same kind of enthusiasm and humor that he brought to the Dodge Durango "Ron Burgundy" ads starring Will Ferrell.
Whether or not taking a tongue-in-cheek stab at sacred artwork will help achieve that goal remains to be seen.
But as for the original artist, Michelangelo once wrote in a letter to his brother: "I have travelled all over Italy for ten years, borne every humiliation, suffered every toil, wrecked my body in every labor and placed my life in a thousand dangers."
Edmunds says: Michelangelo, you ain't seen nothing yet.