A statue was commissioned for the tomb in St. Peters of the French cardinal Jean de Billheres, who was a representative in Rome. According to the formal agreement, the Pieta` was to be “the most beautiful work of marble in Rome, one that no living artist could better.” Michelangelo was neither daunted nor intimated by such a request and upon its completion the world declared that Michelangelo’s Pieta ‘surpassed not only the sculptures of his contemporaries but even those of the ancient Greeks and Romans themselves; the standards by which all art was judged.’
The lamentation of Christ was a theme popular in Northern European art since the fourteenth century and it traditionally focused on the portrayal of pain through the two figures of Mary and Jesus. But Michelangelo’s interpretation of Mary holding a dead Christ in her arms is remarkable in its devotion to the Renaissance Humanist ideals of physical perfection and beauty. Michelangelo boldly celebrated the intimacy and majesty of a single moment frozen in time, choosing to portray Mary as a chaste and glowing young woman holding the gracefully lifeless body of the Savior across her lap. When we gaze upon this masterpiece it’s as though Mary’s outstretched left hand beckons us to share with her, the profound grief caused by the death of her son. Such a subtle and effective compositional device is even more remarkable when we remind ourselves that Michelangelo was only 24 years old when finished his Pieta. Rome.info > Michelangelo’s Pieta.
The La Pietà (1499) is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned for the French cardinal Jean de Billheres, who was a representative in Rome. The statue was made for the cardinal’s funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the basilica, in the 18th century.
This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The theme is of Northern origin, popular by that time in France but not yet in Italy. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pietà is unique to the precedents. It is an important work as it balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with naturalism. The statue is one of the most highly finished works by Michelangelo. (wikipedia)