how long did it take michelangelo to sculpt the pieta
The marks of the Crucifixion are limited to very small nail marks and an indication of the wound in Jesus’ side.
The structure is pyramidal, and the vertex coincides with Mary’s head. The statue widens progressively down the drapery of Mary’s dress, to the base, the rock of Golgotha. The figures are quite out of proportion, owing to the difficulty of depicting a fully-grown man cradled full-length in a woman’s lap. Much of Mary’s body is concealed by her monumental drapery, and the relationship of the figures appears quite natural. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pietà was far different from those previously created by other artists, as he sculpted a young and beautiful Mary rather than an older woman around 50 years of age. 
It is unclear if Michelangelo was aware of this scheme. According to some accounts, it was Michelangelo’s new patron, Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici, who organized this deception against the cardinal. In reality, it was more of a joke than a real scam, in the spirit of the very Florentine Burla, or prank: Lorenzo, known as the Commoner, wanted to show that no alleged art expert would have been able to distinguish that cupid from an original of the classical period. According to this version of events, Michelangelo played an active role in making the statue look antique: he wanted to prove himself worthy of the greats of ancient Greece.
However, it appears more likely that Michelangelo was simply following the custom of Tuscan painters of the time; a tradition he later abandoned.
Here is perfect sweetness in the expression of the head, harmony in the joints and attachments of the arms, legs, and trunk, and the pulses and veins so wrought, that in truth Wonder herself must marvel that the hand of a craftsman should have been able to execute so divinely and so perfectly, in so short a time, a work so admirable; and it is certainly a miracle that a stone without any shape at the beginning should ever have been reduced to such perfection as Nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh. Such were Michelagnolo’s love and zeal together in this work, that he left his name a thing that he never did again in any other work written across a girdle that encircles the bosom of Our Lady. And the reason was that one day Michelagnolo, entering the place where it was set up, found there a great number of strangers from Lombardy, who were praising it highly, and one of them asked one of the others who had done it, and he answered, “Our Gobbo from Milan.” Michelagnolo stood silent, but thought it something strange that his labors should be attributed to another; and one night he shut himself in there, and, having brought a little light and his chisels, carved his name upon it.
Vasari’s Lives of the Artists
In her utter sadness and devastation, she seems resigned to what has happened, and becomes enveloped in graceful acceptance. Michelangelo’s talent in carving drapery is matched by his handling of the human forms in the Christ and the Virgin, both of whom retain a sweet tenderness despite the very tragic nature of this scene. This is, of course, the moment when the Virgin is confronted with the reality of the death of her son. In her utter sadness and devastation, she seems resigned to what has happened, and becomes enveloped in graceful acceptance. Christ, too, is depicted almost as if he is in a peaceful slumber, and not one who has been bloodied and bruised after hours of torture and suffering. In supporting Christ, the Virgin’s right hand does not come into direct contact with his flesh, but instead it is covered with a cloth which then touches Christ’s side. This signifies the sacredness of Christ’s body. Overall, these two figures are beautiful and idealized, despite their suffering. This reflects the High Renaissance belief in Neo-Platonic ideals in that beauty on earth reflected God’s beauty, so these beautiful figures were echoing the beauty of the divine.
Prior to sculpting the Pieta, Michelangelo was relatively unknown to the world as an artist. He was only in his early twenties when he was commissioned in 1498 to do a life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her son in her arms. It would be the first of four that he would create and the only one he completely finished. It was to be unveiled in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500.
In less than two years Michelangelo carved from a single slab of marble, one of the most magnificent sculptures ever created. His interpretation of the Pieta was far different than ones previously created by other artists. Michelangelo decided to create a youthful, serene and celestial Virgin Mary instead of a broken hearted and somewhat older woman.
8. In May 1972, a delusional Laszlo Toth damaged the “Pieta” with a hammer. After repair work was complete, the Vatican had the marble statue encased in a triple layer of bulletproof glass.
One must take these words of Vasari about the “divine beauty” of the work in the most literal sense, in order to understand the meaning of this composition. Michelangelo convinces both himself and us of the divine quality and the significance of these figures by means of earthly beauty, perfect by human standards and therefore divine. We are here face to face not only with pain as a condition of redemption, but rather with absolute beauty as one of its consequences.