Carved from a block of marble by the Renaissance artist, Michelangelo Buonarroti, the process of which took from 1498 to 1500 A.D. The statue depicts the Virgin Mary cradling her deceased son, Jesus. The Pieta (Italian for “pity”), was commissioned by Cardinal Jean Bilheres de Lagraulas, with the Intentions of it decorating his tomb. After several relocations, it eventually found permanent Residence in St. Peter’s Basilica Physical and Historical Description
It belongs to the category of Christian Art. More specifically, the Lamentation of Christ, whenever Jesus is surrounded by mourners because of his sacrifice. The Pieta is designed in a very realistic fashion that was consistent for art during the time of the Renaissance. Genre and Style
It was critically acclaimed during its time and received a number of visitors. It was moved from place to place by the order of various Popes because of its quality. Today it’s location in the Vatican City is one of the most visited and silent places of prayer. Subsequent art has been created in homage to its image. Reception
The Pieta represents the Christian view of humanity’s suffering, and how Christ has taken this punishment for the sake of all people and triumphed over their sins. The piece is made more spiritual and less realistic by the fact that Mary and Jesus’ faces are made to look so young and refined instead of tormented and withered. Being the focal point, they are to represent the salvation Jesus has won for humanity. After some criticism because of the ‘inaccuracy’ of the representation, Michelangelo himself stated that this was because age and physical torture could not mar the purity of either’s holy face. Symbolic References
A serene expression on his face symbolizes that “It is finished,” and how Jesus has prevailed over the sins of man and is now no longer suffering, making it a show of relief. The nail scars from the crucifixion are subtle, as is the wound made by a guard stabbing him in the side with a spear. This was done so not to distract from the faces of Jesus and Mary, and to bring focus more towards that of salvation than suffering. Analysis of Jesus
With a calm face, The Virgin Mary emotionlessly looks upon her son. The expression can almost be looked upon as acceptance, as Jesus’ death was foretold before it happened. Mary’s depiction was also in contrast with most all other presentations of her, especially for the time. Other representations showed her age, while this does not, instead showing youth. Some speculate that her pure, young face represents the newfound innocence of man, as their since had just been wept clean. Analysis of Mary
The sympathetic nature of The Pieta is definitely the most prominent the three rhetorical appeals (as the statue was even titled “pity”). The image of a mother cradling her son’s lifeless body needs little in the ways of elaboration, but the meaning goes beyond just this. Michelangelo created a physical representation of the aftermath of The Christian Messiah's sacrifice, invoking not only guilt that he was forced to do so but also relief and gratitude that, as in line with the Christian belief, they were spared from having to serve eternal damnation for their sins, as Jesus took the immense punishment for them. Rhetorical Appeal: Pathos
Though he was relatively unknown at the time, Michelangelo is currently revered as one of the greatest artists to ever live. The intentions for the piece and effort that went in to creating it show that the artist had a great respect and passion for his profession as well as his religion. Rhetorical Appeal: Ethos
On a Related Note… The Pieta was signed several days after completion. It was done so after he overheard a viewer saying that it was the work of another artist’s, Cristoforo Solari. Later that same day, he chiseled his name upon Mary’s sash. It read, “MICHAELA GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENT FACIEBA” which translated to “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this.” He would later regret this act of pride, and considered it a flaw on a piece that was not a tribute to himself.
Though it does make little logical sense that Jesus would be in such could condition after his crucifixion, and that Mary would appear to be such a young age (as she would have been roughly fifty years old at the time of her son’s death). However, these small facts are apart from the main point of the sculpture, since at no point could the scene depicted by the statue have actually happened (Jesus was taken straight from the cross to the tomb after his death), making it a completely metaphorical depiction. This goes to show that The Pieta is based on spirituality, which is of course goes along the lines of faith rather than logic. Due to this fact, it can be considered unfair to bind it by human reasoning. Rhetorical Appeal: Logos
It is said that Michelangelo sculpted the face of Mary to resemble his late mother’s face. It is the only work of Michelangelo’s to ever be signed. On May 21 st 1972, the sculpture was damaged by several blows from a hammer by Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-born Australian, who proclaimed afterwards that he was in fact, Jesus Christ. Trivia
Do you think Mary’s and Jesus’ faces should have reflected the pain and suffering that they went through? What are your thoughts on Michelangelo’s signing of the sculpture? Did he have the right to show that he created his own masterpiece when its creator was in relatively unknown at the time? Or was it an act of pride? Seeing that Michelangelo minimized the amount of pain that Jesus went through, do you think that he should have included the nail scars and the spear wound at all? Questions
Fin Thank you! (below) Michelangelo, Pictured far right.
“Chapel of the Pieta.” saintpetersbasilica.org. “N.p.” “n.d.” 28 February 2013 http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Altars/Pieta/Pieta.htm http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Altars/Pieta/Pieta.htm “Unmaksed” blogspot.com. Microsoft, 21 November 2011. 28 February 2013 http://ladyrose16.blogspot.com/2011/11/great- works-analysis-of-pieta.html Bibliography
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