The Pietà – A Game-Changer Marble Sculpture!

Title: The Pietà

Author: Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Tuscany, Italy, 6 March 1475 – Mougins, France, 18 February 1564 )     

Date: 1498–1499

Genre: Sculpture

Movement: Christian Art, Renaissance, Naturalism

Material: Marble

Subject: Mary and Jesus

Dimension: 174 cm × 195 cm

Location: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Today, we are in Vatican City, which has full of many significant ethereal artworks and architecture, to examine a recreation of one of the most dramatic scenes in Christianity and a monument for Christians, Michelangelo’s Pietà!

Feel the warm breeze of the Mediterranean lands! So, let’s get started!

Michelangelo had created the Pietà during 1498–1499.

The Meaning Behind of the Pietà

Pietà, which means a depiction of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus after his body was removed from the cross. But its translation to English is pity or compassion.
Facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

To be able to awe this stunning scene, we are heading to the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and entering the Saint Peter’s Basilica as the other people flock here. When you notice Pietà, one of the most known renaissance sculptures in the entire world, you feel a miraculous serenity and witness that Virgin Mary is bent over. She seems resigned, and her appearance so meaningful, straightforward, and hitting! 

As far as I can tell, Pietà is an echo of divine beauty and one of Michelangelo's phenomenal masterpieces.
The Pietà is located in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.


Michelangelo, who is most famed for the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, also is best known for his uncertain temper. He was a man with explosive tendencies and emotional intensity, or to put it differently; we can use the Italian world “terribilità.”

Once Pope Leo X has said:
“Michelangelo is impossible, and one cannot deal with him.”

Michelangelo Buonarroti lived from 1475 to 1564 and was an Italian painter, architect, poet, and sculptor. He created thousands of artworks during his lifetime. Yet, the surest way to push his buttons was to call him a painter. Instead, he considered himself a sculptor. Besides, he was even signing his letters “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Sculptor.”

Therefore, he went into one of his huffs when people confused the two crafts. It seemed to him sculpture was not only his true calling but also the highest form of art.


In Rome, Michelangelo received his first significant commission by Cardinal Jean Bilheres, the ambassador of the King of France to Charles VII. He commissioned Michelangelo to work on a sculpture headed Virgin Mary holding a dead, naked Jesus figure in her arms. Later, Michelangelo accepted this offer. Then, he carved out one single-block marble by using pyramidal composition ( One of the most prominent approaches to visual composition is the pyramidal composition in High Renaissance painting or sculpture.). As a result, the world-famous masterpiece the Pietà has been created which is the only work ever signed by Michelangelo.

Jean Bilheres hasn’t avoided any expenses and ordered some marbles from Carrara for Pietà. Specifically, he used Carrara marble which is white and bluestone.

(Carrara is a Tuscan town 120 km northwest of Florence, where the best marbles are mined in Europe.)

Michelangelo made the Pietà from Carrara marbles.

When Michelangelo was only in his 20s, people considered Michelangelo as a great artist thanks to the Pietà. Later, his fame spread over the world very fast. 


Even though it is a relatively small appearance in the church, this sculpture is still a striking, intimate image that I find exciting. We observe in this artwork a simplistic, balanced, and compatible two-figure with a reflection of the extraordinary relationship Michelangelo has created between the Virgin Mary and the body of the dead Christ, his son.

Virgin Mary doesn’t seem like a mother figure as the different Virgin Mary depictions of other artists. According to some art historians, Mary’s extremely young and beautiful depiction represents the soul of beauty and serene rather than a physical body. Moreover, the Pietà shows one of all the Renaissance ideals of traditional beauty and naturalism.

The details of the idealized and beautiful Virgin Mary and Christ of the Pietà. 


Marble sculpture of Jesus draped across Mary’s lap, the Pietà.

That is when the Virgin Mary was facing the reality of her son’s death!

She holds his son’s dead body on her lap. The Virgin Mary bows her head slightly, and her lap enlarges to carry Christ. She holds up and grasps her son’s right arm, and as you can see, Michelangelo transforms the marble into flesh. His body looks muscled and agile as a natural young man’s body with his ribcage, arm, and abdominal muscles. When we look at the excellent description of the human body here, we remember that Michelangelo, like Leonardo, had dissected cadavers to understand how they worked. Therefore, Michelangelo’s anatomy knowledge helped him to create a successful body image of Christ.

Moreover, there is an impressive opposition in Mary’s beauty and achievement of the complication of holding him steadily. 

Marry tilts her head forward and looks down at Christ. Mary’s left hand is open and points forward as if she tries to comprehend her son’s death. She seems adapted to what has happened in her absolute sorrow, devastation and becomes surrounded by graceful acceptance. On the other hand, Christ came to us with his vulnerable posture with his thrown-back head. Christ’s foot hangs in mid-air with delicacy. 


According to an anecdote, Michelangelo spent most of his time with visitors coming to see the artwork. He listened to their comments. And one day, while he was listening to their criticism, one person approached the other man and, asked, ”Who made this artwork ?”

 “Our Gobbo from Milan,” he replied.

He should have said that the name of Michael Angelus Bonaratus Florentinus Faciebat!

Since there was no sign of the creator of Pietà, the man said the first name came to his mind. Michelangelo could not stand it. As soon as everyone left the church, he went to the Pieta, took out his chisel, and wrote Michael Angelus Bonaratus Florentinus Faciebat in Latin on a belt hanging from Mary’s left shoulder to her right. It means that Michelangelo Buonarroti from Florence made this artwork. 

The Pietà by Ercole de’ Roberti was presented to the Walker Art Gallery by the Liverpool Royal Institution.


The Pietà became famous right after Michalengole carved it. Its fame continues and will remain so for a long long time. But there is another person who gained fame by the “Pity” as well.

Laszlo Toth achieved worldwide reputation with this artwork when he vandalized Michelangelo’s Pietà statue on 21 May 1972. Although he damaged Pieta with a hammer, he was never charged with a criminal offense. Later he was committed to an Italian psychiatric clinic. He was released on 9 February 1975 and was promptly dismissed to Australia.

Laszlo Toth is being dragged by the officials after vandalizing Michelangelo’s Pietà statue on 21 May 1972.

Here we finish by examining the Pietà; the marble was transformed into flesh in Michelangelo’s hand. Letting you alone with his quotes; 

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”


Last but not least, if you are intrigued by art, we will have a blast seeing you here. Hope every art-related thing will find you, see you in our following review.


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