which artist created pieta the sculpture seen below
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.
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 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.”
Though the piece boasts a 520-year history, many highlights of its legacy have emerged only recently. In the middle of the 20th century, for example, it saw much fanfare when it was displayed at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Less than a decade later, it attracted attention when a man brandishing a hammer vandalized it. And, as recently as early 2019, the piece yet again made headlines when historians concluded that a small terra cotta statue discovered in Paris likely served as its study.
The Pieta became famous right after it was carved. Other artists started looking at it because of its greatness, and Michelangelo’s fame spread. Since the artist lived another six decades after carving the Pieta, he witnessed the reception of the work by generations of artists and patrons through much of the sixteenth century.
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.
Every beauty which is seen here below by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come…
My eyes longing for beautiful things together with my soul longing for salvation have no other power to ascend to heaven than the contemplation of beautiful things.
“It would be impossible for any craftsman or sculptor, no matter how brilliant, ever to surpass the grace or design of this work, or try to cut and polish the marble with the skill that Michelangelo displayed. It is certainly a miracle that a formless block of stone could ever have reduced to perfection that nature is scarcely able to create in the flesh. Michelangelo put in to this work so much love and effort (something that he never did again), that he left his name written across the sash over Our Lady’s breast.”
Rome became the artistic center of the High Renaissance due to the patronage of Pope Julius II, who reigned from 1503-1513. Julius II was a noted art collector, owning the Laocoon (c. 42-20 BCE) and the Apollo Belvedere (c. 120-140), along with other noted classical works, which became the foundation for the Vatican’s art museums. He was a formidable personality who made the Papacy into an economic and military force that dominated much of Italy. His goal was to make Rome the cultural center of Europe instead of Florence. To achieve this, he ardently pursued the great artists of the day, persuading Raphael to move to Rome to paint the frescoes of the Vatican’s papal apartments. After commissioning Michelangelo to create the papal tomb. he cajoled the reluctant sculptor into painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512). The Pope’s ambition to rebuild St. Peter’s Basilica and redesign the Vatican led him to recruit Bramante, Michelangelo, and Raphael into roles as architects of his grand plans. After Julius II’s death, papal patronage of the arts continued under Pope Leo X, the son of Lorenzo de’ Medici, patriarch of the ruling (and art loving) family of Florence.
This standard not only dominated the period but subsequent thinking on artistic ability, positioning the artist as a divinely inspired genius, rather than merely a noted craftsman.