Here shows one of the greatest works of religious art the Pieta. It is said that many are so moved by the beauty of this piece that people will stop and pray in silence. It’s maker, Michelangelo said that “A true work of art is but a shadow of divine perfection”. And many would agree that his Pieta is a glimpse of that divine perfection. I have taken time to research the Pieta so today I can explain some the history of the Pieta and Michelangelo, and it’s significance.
Michelangelo was brought into this world on March 6, 1475. Unfortunately his mother died when he about five years old and his father sent him off to school to become a merchant. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, in 1488 Michelangelo excepted an apprenticeship with the painter Domenico Ghirlandajo. () He soon left his apprenticeship to go to a school of sculpture at Medici palace. Michelangelo began his work as a sculptor in 1495. In 1496 he traveled to Rome where he remained until 1501. In his early twenties, Michelangelo was asked to create the Pieta. The French cardinal requested the piece for his tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo returned to Florence and later was employed by Pope Julius II and successors. Michelangelo created other famous works like the statue of David and the painting, The Last Judgment. In 1546 Michelangelo was hired to be the main architect for the new St. Peter’s Basilica which he worked on till his death in 1564 however the basilica was incomplete.
Here is the Pieta. The Pieta is a sculpture of the virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Michelangelo created four of these sculptures but this is the only one that was completed. According to the St. Peter’s Basilica’s website, Michelangelo revealed his masterpiece in 1500 at the old St. Peter’s Basilica which was to be the cardinals funeral chapel. Story has it that as people were admiring his work, a group of bystanders were crediting the statue to other artists. In his frustration, Michelangelo carved his full name into the sash of the Virgin Mary. This is the only artwork that Michelangelo ever signed. And apparently, he regretted every doing so and vowed to never sign his work again. The Pieta currently resides in the new basilica which Michelangelo helped design. Unfortunately, on May 21th 1972 a man of the name of Laszlo Toth came in the basilica with a hammer and started hacking away at the Pieta claiming “I am Jesus Christ”. Other artists were brought in to restore the damages.
From a single slab of marble, Michelangelo created one the most famous sculptures in history. In two years, he gave people a spiritually view of human suffering. Artist before him showed Mary, with the dead Christ in her arms, as old and depressed and most still do that today. Michelangelo depicted the Virgin Mary as serene and dignified rather than grief-stricken over the death of her son. Michelangelo created a true piece of spiritual art as he displayed Mary’s faith. Faith that her son would be resurrected. According to the site of St. Peter’s Basilica’s site, Michelangelo was often criticized for sculpting Mary too young. During the time of Jesus’ death Mary would have been around 45 to 50 years old. However, Michelangelo argued that time could never take away her virgin features. Thus, the Virgin Mary began a symbol of youthfulness. [Apparently, Michelangelo was thinking of his own mother (who died when he was five) when creating the Virgin Mary.]
From my research, I was able to present to you some history about Michelangelo, what the Pieta is, and its significance. Michelangelo once said that, “The greatest artist has no conception which a single block of white marble does not potentially contain within its mass, but only a hand obedient to the mind can penetrate to this image.” I think people would agree that Michelangelo’s mind was obedient when he created the Pieta.