Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Michelangelo's Pieta

Michelangelo's Pieta was commissioned by a French cardinal and installed as a tomb monument in the Vatican basilica of Saint Peter. At the time, this was an unusual theme in Italian art, but other pieta's had been seen north of the Alps. Michelangelo carved the entire sculpture out of a single block of marble. He wrote in his Sonnet 15: "The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of marble does not potentially contain within its mass, but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image."

A pieta scene typically shows the Virgin Mary supporting and mourning the body of Christ after he has been removed from the crucifix. Michelangelo's Pieta portrays a young Mary holding and mourning her dead son. The expressions on the faces of Christ and the Virgin Mary are very humanistic and life like. The detail of the body of Christ shows the perfection of Michelangelo's research while he was working in a hospital cutting cadavers. The detail in Christ's veins and muscles are outstanding and Michelangelo also included the wounds on the body of Christ, which are also great in detail.

The way Michelangelo sculpted this piece of art, he wanted the viewer to see it up close from directly in front of the piece. He wants the viewer to be on the same level of the statue and be able to look directly into Jesus' face. It is said that Michelangelo went into the church at night and signed the sculpture on the sash across Mary's chest. He decided to sign this piece, because at the time of completion many people were questioning who the artist behind the piece was and he wanted no one to question that he was the artist behind this portrayal of beauty.

Kren, Emil, Marx, Daniel. “Web Gallery of Art”. March 30, 2010

Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Century Art 4. 5 vols.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2009.

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