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  • Michelangelo's Pietà

    by Anthony Parente

    The Pietà, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the body of her son Jesus Christ after his death, has been created in many different forms by various painters and sculpture. Of all the great paintings and sculptures on the Pietà the one by Michelangelo stands out from all the rest.

    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 less than two years Michelangelo carved from a single slab of marble, the most magnificent sculpture ever created. His interpretation of the Pietà was far different than ones created previously by other artists. Michelangelo decided to create a youthful, serene and celestial Virgin Mary instead of a broken hearted and somewhat older woman.

    When it was unveiled a proud Michelangelo stood by and watched as people admired the beautiful Pietà. What was pride turned into anger as he overheard a group of people attributing the work to other artists of his time. That anger caused Michelangelo to add one last thing to his sculpture. Going down the sash on the Virgin Mary, Michelangelo carved his name. He later regretted that his emotions got the best of him and vowed to never sign another one of his works again.

    If you have had an opportunity to visit St. Peter's Basilica please take a few minutes to stop by and tell us about your trip by posting on the Italian culture forum.

    Photo by Susie Mann. Used by permission.

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