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Pietà | Analysing Michelangelo’s Vatican Pietà Statue

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The Pietà statue is one of the most famous works of art, which ensured Michelangelo’s unparalleled notoriety. Jean de Villiers Groslay was a member of the Benedictine order and, before the Basilica of Saint-Denis, cardinal and French ambassador to the Pope.

The creation “Pietà” is a masterpiece by Michelangelo Buonarroti. The marble statue is in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It depicts the biblical theme of the “Sorrowful Virgin Mary” (Mater Dolorosa in Latin or Pietà), who holds the body of Christ—taken down from the cross before His resurrection. And also ascension, on her knees.

The banker Jacopo Galli. The contract dates from 27 August 1498 and provides for paying four hundred and fifty gold ducats in pontifical money. The sculpture was intended to decorate the monument in memory of the late King Charles VIII. They died on 7 April 1498 in the chapel of Santa Petronilla, called “Kings of France” in the old St Peter’s Basilica.

What is the Pietà art?

His works are admired all over the world, and no one does not know least the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel or the wonderful statue of David. He designed impressive buildings in Rome and Florence, wrote Sonnets that have gone down in literary history, and had a tumultuous life that has aroused the interest of writers and film people.

Sculpted from a single block of marble with impeccable technique, the Pietà depicts two figures in perfect balance: the Virgin Mary holding Jesus as he comes down from the cross. It is the same traditional image of the sacrifice of Jesus, but, like all of Michelangelo’s sculptures, it is depicted with extraordinary expressive power.

The Pietà statuary group, which Michelangelo created in 1499, was one of his earliest and best-known works and is his only signed work.

What kind of marble is Pietà made of?

When it was exhibited in the basilica, Vasari exclaimed, “How could the hand of a craftsman have accomplished so divinely such admirable work in such a short time? This is a miracle: that a formless rock should reach such perfection. That nature gives birth to the pattern which is so rare in the flesh.”

The sculptor Michelangelo chose to make Pietà from Carrara marble quarried in Polvaccio, which he selected for its creamy color that evokes flesh. To meet the August 1499 contract deadline, Michelangelo worked about twenty hours daily on a block of marble. It was working with a chisel and carving hammer. For weeks, he polished the marble with stones to shine in the darkened chapel. 

On 21 May 1972, on the day of Pentecost (a Catholic feast celebrating the spread of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Easter. To a group of followers of Jesus of Nazareth). A deranged man named Laszlo Toth mutilated the sculpture by hitting it with 15 hammer blows. Including breaking the Virgin’s nose and part of her arm.


How is Christ represented in the Pietà statue?

Michelangelo explained to the painter and writer Ascanio Condivi: “Don’t you know that gentlewomen keep much more relaxed than those who are not? How much more so a virgin. In whom there has never been the slightest lack of desire to trouble her body … “.

In the Pietà statue, Christ’s body seems a little small compared to the Virgin. The artist again gives importance to Mary. Jesus’ body forms an S, balanced with the rest of the sculpture, especially with the rich drapery of the Virgin’s clothing. Christ’s right arm falls naturally. The Virgin seems to respond with the open palm gesture of her left arm.

The position of Mary’s two hands is fundamental to understanding the work. The tense right hand mobilizes Mary’s strength to preserve her son’s body. The left hand, with its open palm, index finger, middle finger, and slightly bent ring finger. Testifies to the Virgin Mary’s kind and charitable character. Her forgiveness (outstretched hand) and unhappiness (thumb and ring finger bent).

Is there a theological door in Pietà?

Michelangelo was keen to provide several symbols in the Pietà that a careful eye can deftly grasp. The shape of the sculpture is triangular: The triangle is the symbol of the Holy Trinity. This shape also allows the Virgin’s face to be highlighted.

According to Marco Bussagli, historian and professor of artistic anatomy at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. There is a theological door in the Pieta symbolizing Christ who, at his death, takes upon himself the sins of the world.

This masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture is on display at the Vatican in St Peter’s Basilica. Not surprisingly, a copy of it is in Michelangelo‘s beloved Florence, in the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Primary Takeaways

  • Vandalism restoration work revealed to the left of the Madonna that Michelangelo’s monogram had remained hidden. For almost 500 years: an “M” was drawn on the palm with the lines of his hand.
  • The pyramidal composition of the carved group in the round marks a contrast between the Virgin and Christ. With the line of His body, three times broken, fitting his mother’s body. Unlike the straight Virgin. Whose mantle contains many deep, moving folds.
  • What is striking in this work is the age of the mainly young Virgin. Unlike other Pietà works, such as the so-called Pietà of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon (or Pietà of Avignon). By Enguerrand Quarton or that of Agnolo Bronzino. Michelangelo gives more importance to the Virgin’s beauty than to her pain.


It was a funerary statue for the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres. A member of the papal court of Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope. The theme was piety, a recurring theme at the time, but Michelangelo gave it shape initially.

Unlike the Norse, the Florentine artist embodied the idea of salvation. Without delving into the suffering of Jesus and his mother. So, the figures represent a pristine and unchanging beauty—an expression of the salvation of humanity brought about by personal sacrifice.