Feel Art Again: "Pietà"

Pieta.jpg /

On a previous 'Feel Art Again' post, reader Jane requested a post on Michelangelo's "Pietà." After our round-up and quiz last week, this week is a good time to branch out and explore sculpture. So, without further ado, I'm proud to present Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni's famous 1499 sculpture, the "Pietà."

1. The gifted Michelangelo got an early start on his career, receiving a painting apprenticeship with Domenico Ghirlandaio at age 13. Apparently, Michelangelo's father persuaded Ghirlandaio to pay his apprentice, a highly unusual practice at the time. Just ten years later, Michelangelo completed the "Pietà."

2. On the sash across Mary's breast is an inscription, "MICHAELA[N]GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN[US] FACIEBA[T]" ("Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made it"). Evidently, shortly after the sculpture was installed, Michelangelo overheard a comment attributing the sculpture to Cristoforo Solari, and carved the inscription so all would know he was the sculptor. Later, he regretted his decision and swore to never sign another work.

3. Michelangelo was quite fond of Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia. During a trip to Bologna, he recited verses from the work in lieu of payment for his housing.

4. While most people today known Michelangelo as a painter and sculptor, he was also a poet. He dedicated over 300 of his sonnets and madrigals to Tommaso dei Cavalieri, who was 34 years younger than Michelangelo. Since Michelangelo's sonnets predate William Shakespeare's famous sonnets by at least 50 years, Michelangelo's sonnets to Cavalieri are the first large sequence of poems in any modern tongue addressed by one man to another.

5. As an artist, Michelangelo was lucky to receive recognition and appreciation during his lifetime. Two biographies of him were published before his death; in one, he is said to be the pinnacle of all artistic achievement since the beginning of the Renaissance. He was often referred to as Il Divino, or "the divine one."

6. In 1972, the "Pietà" was attacked by a hammer-wielding, Hungarian-born geologist. The 33-year-old Laszlo Toth yelled, "I am Jesus Christ!" as he attacked the famous sculpture. As a result, the sculpture is now protected by bullet-proof glass, after undergoing repairs. However, the attack may actually have been beneficial in a way, as the restorers discovered what appears to be a secret monogram: an "M" in the skin lines on the palm of Mary's left hand.

A larger photograph of the sculpture is available here.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.