MICHELANGELO’ S PIETÀ: 5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE VATICAN PIETÀ
If I think of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the first work of art that comes to my mind is Michelangelo’s Pietà. What about you?
It is impossible for you to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and not to notice one of Michelangelo’s masterpieces, the most poetic and marvellous sculpture ever created.
Are you curious to find out Michelangelo’s most beautiful sculpture in 5 points? Let’s go!
The Pietà is a subject to which Michelangelo dedicated himself in at least three occasions.
For example, I’ve already dedicated a post to the famous Rondanini Pietà: Michelangelo’s last work, housed in Milan, but in Florence, at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, you can also admire the Deposition (also called the Bandini Pietà).
However, in my opinion, the first and the most beautiful one is the Vatican Pietà, that is to say Michelangelo’s Pietà, housed in St. Peter’s Basilica
1. WHEN AND WHEN MICHELANGELO’S PIETA’ WAS CREATED
Michelangelo’s Pietà is the first sculpture created in Rome by Michelangelo, who at that time was in his early 20s (1497-1499) and was rather famous.
It’s one of the great masterpieces created by the Florentine artist and is also the only work where his signature is visible, carved on the sash running across Mary’s chest.
2. WHO COMMISSIONED MICHELANGELO TO CARVE THE PIETA’
Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who served as French ambassador of Charles VIII to the Papal States, commissioned Michelangelo to create the Pietà, a work that had to be his funeral monument and had to be placed in the Chapel of Santa Petronilla in Saint Peter’s Basilica. However, when the sculpture was displayed to the public, everybody stared at it in fascination and admiration, so in 1517 it was decided to place it in the sacristy of St. Peter’s Basilica.
3. MICHELANGELO’S PIETA’: STYLE
The agreement between Michelangelo Buonarroti and his client to make the Pietà, was signed on August 27th 1498, and contains the description of the subject.
Michelangelo didn’t limit himself to create the Pietà following the classical model, which established Mary’s vertical bust and Jesus’ horizontal body, but he modernised a traditional composition and gave the work a natural appearance never seen before.
4. MICHELANGELO’S PIETA’: DESCRIPTION
Mary is represented by Michelangelo as a young woman, sat on a rock symbolizing the Calvary (or the Golgotha), the mount where Jesus was crucified.
Jesus, instead, lays down on his mother’s legs, dead.
A lot has been written about Mary’s face, too young according to some critics, but Michelangelo probably wanted to allude to Virgin Mary’s beauty, which is more spiritual than physical.
5. MICHELANGELO’S PIETA’: FORTUNES AND EVENTS
Since its creation, Michelangelo’s Pietà has been considered a masterpiece.
In 1964 Michelangelo’s Pietà was loaned to the 1964–1965 New York World’s Fair and visitors waited in queue for hours to admire the sculpture!
Due to acts of vandalism occurred in the past and crowds of visitors who every year draw near it to admire this masterpiece, it has been decided to protect Michelangelo’s Pietà with a glass panel, which, however, doesn’t impede you from admire its beauty.
USEFUL BOOKS ON MICHELANGELO
- The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican – A pair of distinguished scholars identifies and analyzes secret messages encoded within the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling fresco, revealing how the master Renaissance artist imparted messages of brotherhood, tolerance, and revolution to interfaith free-thinkers and Kabbalists from his period. Reprint.
Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece – Michelangelo, God’s Architect is the first book to tell the full story of Michelangelo’s final two decades, when the peerless artist refashioned himself into the master architect of St. Peter’s Basilica and other major buildings.