la pieta by michaelangelo

The story of how Michelangelo came to Rome and went on to sculpt the Pietà, now on display in St. Peter’s Basilica, is quite incredible.
Despite being immediately well-received and admired, the Pietà did receive some criticism for the particularly youthful depiction of the Virgin Mary, who resembles an adolescent. This was done intentionally by Michelangelo, as was revealed by his biographers, and there was a theological explanation behind it. The incorruptible Virgin, the immaculate conception, she is the symbol of crystallised youth that never withers; the artist also took inspiration from the verses of Dante’s Paradiso: “O Virgin mother, daughter of thy son.

La pieta by michaelangelo
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. [4]
When Michelangelo set out to create his Pietà, he wanted to create a work he described as “the heart’s image”. [6]

La pieta by michaelangelo
Michelangelo claimed that the block of Carrara marble he used to work on this was the most “perfect” block he ever used, and he would go on to polish and refine this work more than any other statue he created.
This was the only work of Michelangelo to which he signed his name.

9. Among the most difficult damage to repair was Mary’s eyelid, which took approximately 20 tries before the restorers got it right.
6. The packaging created for the sculpture’s Atlantic crossing was designed to withstand a shipwreck. If the ship went down, the crate would float. If the statue partially sunk, a radio transmitter inside the crate would serve as a location device.

La pieta by michaelangelo
The Pietà perfectly reflects these Renaissance ideals. In order to suggest balance, he rendered the sculpture as a pyramid. Popular in Renaissance painting and sculpture alike, the use of pyramidal composition—an artistic technique of placing a scene or subject within an imaginary triangle—aids the viewer as they observe a work of art by leading their eye around the composition. Such a silhouette also suggests stability, which Michelangelo further implied through the use of heavy drapery covering Mary’s monumental form.
During the High Renaissance (1490-1527), artists in Italy began to reject the unrealistic forms found in figurative Medieval art in favor of a more naturalistic approach. At the forefront of this trend, Michelangelo crafted sculptures that focused on balance, detail, and a lifelike yet idealized approach to the human form.


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