pieta sculpture germany
This German style was adapted by French carvers, although with softer and less brutally realistic tones. 
The figures are carved in high relief, which can be seen especially in the deep concave folds of the dress around Mary’s legs. 
Pietà is one of the three common artistic representations of a sorrowful Virgin Mary, the other two being Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows) and Stabat Mater (here stands the mother).   The other two representations are most commonly found in paintings, rather than sculpture, although combined forms exist. 
A pietà (Italian pronunciation: [pjeˈta] ; meaning “pity”, “compassion”) is a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, most often found in sculpture. As such, it is a particular form of the Lamentation of Christ, a scene from the Passion of Christ found in cycles of the Life of Christ. When Christ and the Virgin are surrounded by other figures from the New Testament, the subject is strictly called a lamentation in English, although pietà is often used for this as well, and is the normal term in Italian.
Pietà, as a theme in Christian art, depiction of the Virgin Mary supporting the body of the dead Christ. Some representations of the Pietà include John the Apostle, Mary Magdalene, and sometimes other figures on either side of the Virgin, but the great majority show only Mary and her Son. The Pietà was widely represented in both painting and sculpture, being one of the most poignant visual expressions of popular concern with the emotional aspects of the lives of Christ and the Virgin.
The format of the Virgin bearing the body of Christ on her knees was standard until the 16th century, when, influenced by the Renaissance concern with logic and proportions, artists usually depicted Christ lying at the Virgin’s feet, with only his head propped against her knees. This form was adopted by Italian Baroque art and was passed on to Spain, Flanders, and Holland.
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.
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 Christian art, “pieta” – the Italian for “pity” or “mercy” – is a depiction of the dead Christ following the descent from the cross, accompanied either by a sorrowful Virgin/Madonna (sometimes with Saint John), or angels. The image may be a sculpture – most often a marble sculpture or a wood carving – or a painting. The most famous Pieta is the sculpture by Michelangelo, which can be seen in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome.
EVOLUTION OF VISUAL ART
For details of art movements
and styles, see: History of Art.
For chronology, see:
History of Art Timeline.