the metropolitan museum of art the pieta michelangelo
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.
In fact, the piece was so celebrated that, fearing he wouldn’t be given credit, Michelangelo—who is known for never signing his work—famously inscribed it with his name. According to Vasari, the artist overheard onlookers erroneously attribute the piece to Il Gobbo, a Milanese artist. In response, Michelangelo “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.”
I imagine the Vatican and Met took a great deal of care making these molds and casts, and as a good cast is extremely accurate, this model may be the most faithful digital copy of Mary available to the public until the Vatican freely publishes their own 3D survey of the Pietà–if and when that ever happens.
“© 1982 MMA”—Inscription by the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Although the pietà most often shows the Virgin Mary holding Jesus, there are other compositions, including those where God the Father participates in holding Jesus (see gallery below). In Spain the Virgin often holds up one or both hands, sometimes with Christ’s body slumped to the floor.
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.
If Michelangelo’s accomplishments make him seem superhuman, this exhibition (title aside) grounds and humanizes him.
Artist as Believer
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