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PietÓ by Michelangelo
PietÓ by Michelangelo

The PietÓ by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

It is the first out of four works he sculpted with this subject, and Michelangelo sculpted it in 1498 - 99. The statue was commissioned by the French cardinal Jean De Billheres, who was a representative in Rome. The statue was made for the cardinal's funeral monument, but was moved in St. Peter's Basilica in the 18th century.

This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary, after his crucifixion. The model is the nordic one, which Michelangelo assimilates and elaborates in a personal way. It takes to the extreme the Renaissance idea of classic harmony, beauty, norm and measure. The statue is highly finished compared to other works.

The structure is strictly pyramidal, and the vertex coincides with Mary's head. The statue widens progressively down to the base, on which falls the drapery.

The figures are quite out of proportion, owing to the difficulty of depicting a fully-grown man cradled full-length in a woman's lap. If Christ were to be human scale, the Virgin, standing, would be nearly five meters tall. This could very well be intentional, however: as said above, this statue was moved from its original location, and we don't know in which position it was before. If it was to be situated in a high place, Michelangelo could have intentionally deformed it, to balance human sight aberration. However, much of the Virgin's size is concealed in her drapery, and the figures look quite natural.

The marks of the crucifixion are limited to very small nail marks and an indication of the wound in Jesus' side. The imprints of the nails in the feet do not "go through" to the underside of the foot.

The Madonna is represented as being very young, and about this peculiarity there are different interpretations. Some say the youth symbolizes purity, but others connect it to Michelangelo's passion for Dante's Divina Commedia: the artist knew very well this work, so that when he went to Bologna, he paid for hospitality reciting some verses from it. In the thirty-third cantica (Paradise) of this work, S. Bernard, in a prayer for the Virgin Mary, says "Vergine madre, figlia del tuo figlio" (Virgin mother, daughter of your son). This is said because, being that Christ is one of the three figures of Trinity, Mary should be His daughter, like all of humanity is, but is also His mother. This is why, in some researchers' opinion, Mary is represented young.

A few days after being placed in St. Peter's, Michelangelo overheard someone remark that the work was done by Cristoforo Solari. In a rage, Michelangelo carved "MICHEL ANGELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT FACIBAT" (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this) on the sash running across Mary's breast. He later regretted his outburst of pride and swore to never sign another work of his hands.

Michelangelo's PietÓ was damaged on May 21, 1972 by Lazlo (or Laszlo) Toth, who hammered the sculpture, breaking its nose and other parts, while shouting "I am Jesus Christ."

After the attack, the work was painstakingly restored and returned to its place in St. Peter's, just to the right of the entrance, between the Holy door and the altar of Saint Sebastian, and is now protected by an unbreakable glass panel. The chapel of the PietÓ is the location where the Pope vests before liturgical celebrations in theÓ (Michelangelo) pl:Pietà watykańska pt:PietÓ de Michelangelo


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