The Pietà (Italian: [pjeˈta] ; English: “The Pity” ; 1498–1499) is a work of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti, housed in St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French Cardinal Jean de Bilhères, who was a representative in Rome. The sculpture, in Carrara marble, was made for the cardinal’s funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century.  It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.
In 1964, the Pietà was lent by the Vatican to the 1964–65 New York World’s Fair to be installed in the Vatican pavilion. Francis Cardinal Spellman, who had requested the statue from Pope John XXIII, appointed Edward M. Kinney, Director of Purchasing and Shipping of Catholic Relief Services – USCC, to head up the Vatican Transport Teams.  People stood in line for hours to catch a glimpse from a conveyor belt moving past the sculpture. It was returned to the Vatican after the fair. 
The pietà developed in Germany (where it is called the “Vesperbild”) about 1300, reached Italy about 1400, and was especially popular in Central European Andachtsbilder.  Many German and Polish 15th-century examples in wood greatly emphasise Christ’s wounds. The Deposition of Christ and the Lamentation or Pietà form the 13th of the Stations of the Cross, as well as one of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin.
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.
While Mary’s face appears peaceful in the Pietà , it is her left hand, turned upward in helpless resignation, that betrays the true depth of emotion, indeed the intensity of her grief. Note the regal composition of her drapery as it lies in rhythmic and lavish folds beneath the body of the Savior.
In the face of the Savior, Michelangelo’s Pietà reveals only slight traces of the suffering endured. The expression is peaceful, relaxed, not yet rigid, and without lingering agony. But in the body of Christ, highly polished to absolute anatomical perfection, the artist achieved his greatest sculptural triumph.
Since its 15th-century unveiling, the Pietà has had an eventful life. While, for centuries, it was housed in the cardinal’s Vatican City-based funerary chapel, it eventually found a permanent and prominent place in St. Peter’s Basilica, where it remains today.
Toward the end of the 15th century, young Florentine artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was already an esteemed artist. He was particularly renowned for his ability to paint and sculpt biblical figures with realistic anatomical features, culminating in commissions from Rome’s religious elite.
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.