Thursday, April 9, 2009

Michelangelo's "Pieta"

In keeping with Holy Week, I present Michelangelo's "Pieta". This is truly a beautiful and moving piece of art. I was fortunate to have seen it in person when I was a child - about 10 or 11 I think. It was at the Vatican Pavillion at the World's Fair in New York in the 1960s. Even at that young age I could see that this was something out of the ordinary.
Created in 1499 out of a single piece of marble, the "Pieta" stands 5ft 5.5 ins by 6 ft 4.8 ins. It was commissioned by the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres for his funeral monument. It now stands in St.Peter's Bascilica in the Vatican.
The theme is one which popular North of the Alps where the portrayal of pain had always been connected to the idea of redemption; it was called "Vesperbild''.
"The Pieta" combines the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with a naturalism. There have been several theories (of course) of why Michelangelo depicted Mary as very young. He himself said that her youth symbolizes her incorruptible purity. Some have compare the positioning of Mary holding the dead Christ with the Madonna holding the baby Jesus. Personally, I find that quite a moving idea. A mother holding her dead son but seeing only the child she once carried in her arms.
Michelangelo Buonarroti was born March 6, 1475 in the region of Tuscany, Italy.(That means he was 22 when he sculpt the "Pieta"!) He died in 1564 in Rome.
On May 21, 1971, the statue was severely damaged when when a mentally disturbed geologist named Laszlo Toth walked into the chapel and attacked the Virgin with a geologist's hammer while shouting "I am Jesus Christ."After the attack, the work was painstakingly restored and returned to its place in St. Peter's, and is now protected by a bullet-proof acrylic glass panel.

Click the "pieta" link above to see more photos of the "Pieta"

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