“Pieta” by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius

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"Pieta". "Lamentation of Christ." (1499). Saint Paul's Cathedral. Vatican.

One of the main attractions of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican is a masterpiece of world art, the sculptural composition “Pieta” (1499) carved in full size from marble by the brilliant Florentine master Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). The history of the creation and the most interesting fate of this sculptural masterpiece will be discussed in this review.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
Vatican. Rome. Italy
"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Vatican.
"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
Michelangelo Buonarroti. (1535). The Capitol Museum. Florence

«Рietа»(1799)

The interest of artists in biblical stories has always been great. Since the Early Renaissance, the masters of European countries reflected in their creations the grieving Madonna, who mourns the crucified son, who was taken from the cross. One of such creations of those times was the canvas of Pietro Perugino (1446-1524) – “Lamentation of Christ” (1494), in which we see the tragic soul-mourning scene of grief and suffering of the Virgin. Today, the picture is stored in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
“Lamentation of Christ.” (1494) Florence. Author: Pietro Perugino.

This creation also prompted Michelangelo to create his three-dimensional composition from a block of marble. Few people believed that the 24-year-old sculptor would cope with this difficult task. But the result was amazing and exceeded all expectations. The master created his first and truly brilliant drink. Pieta from Italian “compassion, sorrow, pity, sympathy” is an iconographic composition depicting Mary with the deceased son Jesus, who lies on her lap. This iconography was inherent in the works of artists in the XIII-XVII century.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius

“Pieta”. “Lamentation of Christ.” (1498). Author: Michelangelo BuonarrotiFigures of the Virgin and Jesus were carved from a single piece of marble by the sculptor Buonarroti in 1499. The client was French cardinal Jean Bilard de Lagrol, who served as French ambassador in Rome at the court of Pope Alexander VI. The contract retains the words of the guarantor – the influential patrician, the patron of the talent of Michelangelo, the Roman banker Jacopo Galli: “I, Jacopo Galli, declare that the work will be the most beautiful of all the marble works that are present in Rome for today. It will be of such quality that no master of our time will be able to create better. ”

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
“Pieta”. Fragment. Author: Michelangelo Buonarroti.

Thanks to the banker’s guarantee, this expensive work was commissioned by an unknown and very young sculptor. The fee for this work was four hundred and fifty gold ducats.

In May 1497 the sculptor went to the quarry of Carrara for a block of marble of the purest breed with almost no inclusions and cracks, which he personally chose. The sculpture was intended for the tomb of the cardinal. And according to the contract, a year later this creation was to be completed. But the master did not invest in the terms: it was very laborious was the creative process and the work was stretched for two years. The Cardinal, seeing the unfinished work of the sculptor before his death, was delighted and confirmed that Buonarroti had fulfilled the terms of the treaty.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
Fragment. Author: Michelangelo Buonarroti.

After the completion of this brilliant creation was established at the most honorable place in the heart of the Vatican – St. Peter’s Cathedral. It served as a model for imitation of young masters. The sculptor himself was very fond of his creation, and often visited the temple to admire his work. Once he heard that his work was attributed to the sculptor Cristoforo Solari, Buonarroti, in a fit of rage, carved into a sling around Maria: “MIKILANDJELLO BUONARROTI FLORENTINE EXECUTED.”

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
Fragment. The Virgin Mary, bandaged with a ribbon with the inscription: “MIKILANDJELO BUONARROTI FLORENTICE EXECUTED”.

What is noteworthy, the “poor artist”, being semi-literate, made a mistake in the fourth letter of his name. But for five centuries no one dared to correct this oversight. “Pieta” is a single work that Michelangelo signed, and in a time very much repented of the perfect. He never again put any autographs on his creations.

This sculptural composition for five centuries suffered several times from negligence and vandalism, which was shown by spectral analysis. Several centuries ago a part of the Virgin’s left hand was repulsed, but the restorers restored it perfectly. And at the end of the 18th century, during the transportation, four fingers of Mary were broken off, which was also perfectly restored.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius

In the second half of the twentieth century, there was a terrible act of vandalism: an Australian geologist, a Hungarian by birth Laszlo Toth with mad screams that he was Christ, attacked the statue and struck with a rock hammer fifteen strokes of marble. Madonna’s hand and her beautiful face were hurt again. It was collected about fifty fragments from the mutilated marble composition. The genius creation was again masterfully restored again, and it was already installed behind bullet-proof glass, raising it to an unreachable for vandals elevation.

"Pieta" by Michelangelo Buonarroti: fascinating story of marble sculpture with the autograph of a genius
The act of vandalism committed by Laszlo Toth.

 

 

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