Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Michelangelo's "Pietá"

Michelangelo's "Pietá," 1498/99-1500, Marble

Located in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Michelangelo's "Pietá" emerged in the turn of the 16th century as one of the most influential pieces of sculpture for not only his career, but also for the realm of art. Michelangelo's sculpture depicts the traditional story of Mary holding Jesus after he has been removed from the cross post crucifixion. Prodigious draping from Mary's garb occupies most of the sculpture, but the focal point of the image, though many would immediately assume to be Jesus, seems to instead be Mary herself. Her face contradicts time as it appears to be younger than that of Jesus' as he is 33 at the time of his death. She holds Jesus upon her lap, her knees vividly defined through the draping of her dress.

The significance of this piece struck me while visiting the famous basilica in Rome. Hidden behind  a crowd of art-hungry tourists, the statue remained so peacefully contained in a glass case with a spotlight highlighting it's creamy hue. The sculpture has remained remarkable to me for varied reasons. First, the presence of the sculpture is overwhelming. Regardless of the chaos that flooded the basilica, Michelangelo's sculpture emanated grace and calmness. Most assumably, Michelangelo was attempting to convey the glory of Jesus' death as he unifies humanity and himself with God. Secondly, the image of Mary is remarkable. Not only is she beautiful, but she is also young, angelic, and powerful--most assuredly meant to express her irrevocable purity. Composing Jesus upon her knees provides a triangular structure that's pleasing to the eye. Thirdly, this being his second influential piece sculpted at the age of 23--the first being Bacchus at the age of 19--proves his tremendous talent and stature as one of the greats. In both its detail and precedence, Michelangelo's Pietá takes its place in the history books.

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