body. The other figures are still and solemn in their sorrow.
The most famous pietà is the large
sculpture in white Carrara marble by Michelangelo. This masterpiece is magnificent for several reasons: its size, skill of
execution, triangular composition, and
beauty. There are many interesting facts
about this sculpture that make it even
Michelangelo (1475–1564) was a
young man of 21 when he came to Rome
from Florence in order to secure commissions. He already had some commissions as a young master in his hometown
of Florence but left when there was political upheaval, and he no longer had
the patrons to support him and his art.
When Michelangelo arrived in Rome, he
found favor with a French Cardinal who
was a representative to the Vatican. This
Cardinal commissioned Michelangelo to
build a statue to decorate his tomb in St.
Peters. Michelangelo was only 24 years
old when he completed his masterwork,
1 bringing incredible humanity and
beauty out of the cold marble that he selected from the quarry himself.
This Pietà was different from others
that had been created before it. The Virgin Mary is depicted as younger than
what her age would have been at the
time of Jesus’ death. When asked about
this, Michelangelo explained that Mary’s
sinless nature (a common Catholic belief) would have meant that her body
and beauty would not fade with time.
All through the ages, this theme of the mourning
mother of God has evoked powerful emotions.
The look on Mary’s face is not grief, but
peace, as if she is accepting this outcome of her dead son in order to fulfill
God’s divine plan. Mary’s left arm is outstretched, as if she is inviting us to join
in her sorrow with her.
The body of Christ is lean and muscular in the classical style, but not overly
so, thereby blending the classical with
the natural. His limp, lifeless body is
stretched across Mary’s lap as she cradles
him one last time. Mary’s torso is covered
in the many folds of her dress, so that we
see only her face, hands, and feet. Thereby our attention is drawn to the figure of
Christ and her serene face as she looks
The marble is highly polished, crea-
ting a supernatural glow to the figures.
And the Pietà is the only sculpture
signed by Michelangelo. The story has it
that the Pietà was on display in the Ba-
silica, and Michelangelo was listening to
admirers. When a visitor attributed the
work to another competing artist of the
time, this enraged Michelangelo. At a
later time, he set about to carve his sig-
nature into the sash across Mary’s chest.
Inscribed therein are these words: Mi-
chael Angelus Bonarotus Florentinus Fa-
ciebat or “This was made by Florentine