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Explore the background, creation and significance of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture, and then test your understanding with a quiz about the Pieta and Italian art.

Artist/Celebrity- Michelangelo and the Piet;

When we think of celebrities, we often think of actors and their most famous roles. But it wasn’t always this way. Artists were once the most celebrated celebrities, and their works changed the world.One artist, Michelangelo, was at the top of the A-List. He was the artistic equivalent of a Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.

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He was George Clooney with a chisel. He was Leonardo DiCaprio: king of the world. He was a big deal. And his first major role was as the sculptor of the Pietà.

Sculpture of Michelangelo in Florence, Italy
Piet;agrave;
Pietà

The term Piet; refers to the subject of Christ in the lap of his mother, the Virgin Mary, after he has been crucified and removed from the cross. During the Renaissance, the Piet; was a very common theme in France and Germany.

So when the French cardinal Jean de Bilh;res Lagraulas approached the young Michelangelo to create a sculpture for the cardinal’s future tomb in Old St. Peter’s Basilica, the subject was not surprising. What amazed people was how Michelangelo used the marble stone to capture the theme.In the sculpture, Jesus is draped across Mary’s lap as she looks down upon his body in grief.

Whereas most Italian artists portrayed Christ during his crucifixion and emphasized his wounds and suffering, Michelangelo’s sculpture is calm, and almost tranquil, but still full of sadness. The wounds on Jesus’ hands and feet from being nailed to the cross are small. He looks almost has if he has fallen asleep, not been the victim of a violent execution. The focus is on the relationship between Christ and his mother, not the crucifixion itself.Although the figures of Christ and Mary seem to be very natural together in the sculpture, they are actually carved outside of realistic proportion. This is partly so that Jesus, a full-grown man, can fit in Mary’s lap. The disproportionate bodies also let Michelangelo create a general pyramid-shape to the sculpture.

One of the key features of Renaissance art was the use of geometric and symmetric shapes to create a sense of balance and harmony. Michelangelo’s Pietà is shaped like a triangle, with Mary’s head at the top and Christ’s body in her lap forming the base. Mary looks very young, possibly even younger than Christ, despite the fact that she should be well into her 50s. This caused a lot of controversy at the time. Michelangelo explained this by saying that Mary’s youthfulness represented her divine purity.

Importance of Michelangelo’s Pietà

Michelangelo’s Piet; changed Italian art. The subject, the form, the incredible mastery of the carving set the standard of sculpture. Michelangelo captured the Renaissance ideals of balance, harmony and classical beauty. In later years, rumors had spread that the artist was actually another man, named Cristoforo Solari, so Michelangelo broke into the basilica one night and signed his name to the Piet;.

It was the only sculpture he ever signed; most artists did not sign their works until much later in history.The Piet; is still considered one of the most perfect marble sculptures in history. Michelangelo went on to become one of the most famous artists in the world, and became an Italian celebrity. His later works include the David sculpture in Florence, as well as the famous Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel
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