15 Things To Know About Michaelangelo’s Pieta

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Michelangelo is a famous sculptor who created the Pieta in 1499. From the creation of Pieta until now, the statue has always caught people’s attention. If you are a history buff like me or simply curious, here are 15 things to know about Michaelangelo’s Pieta.

Pieta Was Made For A French Cardinal

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Jean de Billheres was a French cardinal in the Church of Rome. He wanted a memorial in his memory after his death. He hired Michelangelo and asked him to make a tomb as his memorial. Later on, Michelangelo sculpted the Pieta, which is still considered his greatest work. 

Pieta Was Moved To St. Peter’s Basilica After 200 Years

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Initially, the Pieta was in the Church of Rome as a memorial to Jean de Billheres. It was meant to be at the first chapel of the late Renaissance era. But after 200 years, it was shifted to St. Peter’s Basilica so that it could become a tourist attraction in Vatican City. 

Pieta Was Carved From A Big Marble Stone

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Many modern-day sculptors are still astonished by the fact that Michelangelo carved the Pieta from a single slab of marble stone. He used a big, white, and blue Carrara marble stone to carve the infamous Pieta out of it. The Carrara marble stone was specially delivered from Italy for this purpose. 

Michelangelo Made A Special Mark On The Pieta

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Initially, Pieta did not have Michelangelo’s name as its creator. But, when Michelangelo visited the chapel, he overheard someone mentioning that the sculpture was the work of another sculptor, Cristoforo Solari. At that moment, Michelangelo decided to sign the sculpture with his name, “Michelangelo Buonarroti, the Florentine made this”. 

Michelangelo Was Only 24 When He Made The Pieta

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Before the Pieta, Michelangelo was a known sculptor who carved various stone works. But after the Pieta, he became a reputed sculptor who sculpted a masterpiece at the very young age of 24. After the Pieta, he started being recognized and appreciated more.

Criticized For Its Depiction Of Mary

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Many church observers believed Michelangelo made Mary too young to have a son whose age was 33 years old. Michelangelo defended these statements by claiming that it was his artistic freedom to carve his statue, whichever he liked. Moreover, he stated that Mary was a chaste woman and that chaste women look fresh and younger than non-chaste women. 

The Pieta Was Formed From Many Sculpting Styles

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During the sculpting of Pieta, Michelangelo used many sculpting styles, and the final art had various themes. He was appreciated for using Renaissance ideas of sculpting, which possessed naturalism. Moreover, the whole marble was carved in the shape of a pyramid from the head of Mary to her robes. 

The Pieta Had A Few Miscalculations

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If someone looks close enough, he might notice that the head of Mary is too small when compared to the rest of her body. During the sculpting, Michelangelo miscalculated, resulting in unrealistic body proportions. He could have corrected them by removing the adult boy from the final piece, but he did not want to lose the poetic resemblance of the statue. 

The Pieta Was Attacked

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Laszlo Toth, a Hungarian-Australian geologist, attacked Pieta on May 21, 1972, under the delusion that he was Jesus Christ. He struck the sculpture with a hammer 15 times, damaging Mary’s nose, left arm, and eyelids. This act was not politically or ideologically driven but stemmed from his psychotic breakdown.

The Destruction Of The Statue Was Not A Criminal Offense

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After the attack by Toth, a committee was established to punish him for his actions. Instead of putting him in jail, the authorities named him a dangerous person and put him in a mental health facility. After serving time in the facility, he was deported to Hungary. 

Many People Were Against Restructuring It


When the Pieta was damaged, many sculptors were against restoring it. Another committee was established that listened to all arguments about the restoration of Pieta. The arguments centered on three premises: build another Pieta, restructure the original Pieta, or leave it unchanged. 

The Restructuring Took A Lot Of Time

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At last, it was decided to rebuild/restructure the Pieta. Many craftsmen from all across the world were hired to restructure Pieta. All of them tried to stick the broken pieces in its correct place. After five months, they were able to recreate Pieta in its original state. Later on, the Pieta was kept in a bulletproof glass for safety.

The Pieta Was Kept In The Bulletproof Glass

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After the vandalism incident, the United States wanted to display the Pieta to the Americans, so the Vatican loaned the statue to the New York World Fair for a few months. This time, the statue was kept safe from intruders by being placed inside seven big sheets of plexiglass, which weighed around 4900 pounds!

The Pieta Has A ‘M’ Mark On It

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During the reconstruction of the Pieta, workers discovered a mark on Mary’s left hand. The mark was ‘M,’ which is believed by many people to stand for Michelangelo, who sculpted the original Pieta. Many believed that workers should have covered the mark, but some wanted to keep the mark as it is as a sign of respect. 

The Supposedly Original Pieta Design

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Roy Doliner, an American art historian, claimed to have discovered the original design of the Pieta in November 2010. He claims that his discovered 12-inch statue is the original idea behind the masterpiece Pieta. The discovered statue had characteristics similar to those of the sculptures of Mary and Jesus, which were carved by Andrea Bregno.


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