Renowned Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti’s (1475-1564) sculpture Pieta is a Florentine masterpiece of the period. It was a unique piece owing to it being the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.
It was commissioned for the French cardinal Jean de Billheres (1400-99) as his funeral monument. A new theme for Italian Art, it took less than two years to complete in 1499. It was first displayed in the Chapel of Santa Petronilla, a Roman mausoleum near the south transept of St. Peter. Pieta was first developed in Germany, soon gaining fame in Italy, France, Poland, and Central Europe. Its version in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy, is the most popular Pieta until date. The statue is here since the eighteenth century. In the subsequent years, Pieta received several physical damages, including four broken fingers of Virgin Mary. Giuseppa Lirioni restored it in 1736. Pieta was hurt the most on May 21, 1972, when a mentally misbalanced geologist tried breaking the sculpture with a hammer. Several portions of sculpture were hurt. Even Mary’s nose was destructed and had to be reconstructed. Soon after, the sculpture was shipped to become the main attraction for Vatican pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s fair.
A fine blend of Classic Renaissance and Naturalism, the statue depicts a full grown up man cradled in a woman’s lap. The man is dead Jesus after Crucifixion and the woman is his distressed mother Virgin Mary.
Measuring 174 cm × 195 cm (68.5″ × 76.8″) the marble structure is pyramidal, with the vertex coinciding with Mary’s head. The statue widens at the bottom with the drapery of Mary’s dress, which covers much of her body. The base is formed from the rock of Golgotha. Jesus’ body carries small nail marks symbolizing his wounds from Crucifixion.
The relationship of the two figures is described as quite natural. The young and pretty Virgin Mary with her incorruptible purity has been shown sorrowfully cradling and looking at the dead body of Jesus. Mary’s youthful appearance and apparently serene facial expression together with the position of arms look natural and real. Mary is considered the closest to God who is the creator of beauty. Therefore, her exterior has been depicted as beautiful and young. The small size of Jesus symbolizes the feebleness associated with death. The work depicts the freshness of youth, which seemingly God preserved with His grace and blessing.
Annette Labedzki received her BFA at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. She has more than 25 years experience. She is the founder and developer of an online art gallery featuring original art from all over the world. Please visit the website at http://www.Labedzki-Art.com It is a great site for art collectors to buy original art. Artists can join for free and their image upload is unlimited.
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