Michelangelo’s Pieta – The only piece he signed
A visit to Vatican City means the opportunity to see some wonderful art! You’ll see tapestries, paintings and sculptures. Many are excited to see Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling. As wonderful as that is…so is his sculpture! This one is Michelangelo’s only signed work.
La Pieta, which means pity in Italian, is an amazing piece of art. You can see the injuries on Jesus as he lays limply in his mother’s lap after being taken down from the cross where he died. On her face the sadness of losing a child.
Like most artists, Michelangelo, was a really colorful person. He was multi-talented and was able to create art in many different medium like art and sculpture. Michelangelo though of himself as a sculptor – not a painter. He loved to sculpt. He said that he simply set free what was inside the rock.
As a matter of fact, he didn’t even want to paint his most famous work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. At the time, the pope was very powerful so when he asked Michelangelo to paint the chapel ceiling Michelangelo just felt he couldn’t say no. You just didn’t tell the pope no!
This sculpture, Michelangelo’s Pieta, is inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Michelangelo was in the crowd of locals admiring his sculpture when he overheard two people discussing his work, La Pieta. They were giving credit to the wrong artist – a person from a neighboring town. Michelangelo was so mad and jealous at not getting credit for his masterpiece! The very next day he chiseled “Michelangelo did this” on Mary’s sash. It is the only piece he ever signed.
It is hard to get close enough to get a good photo, but you can see a close up here from photographer Ron Soliman.
Michelangelo Pieta Facts
- This piece of art from Michelangelo, his sculpture, La Pieta, was commissioned for a tomb. Jean de Billheres was a cardinal in the Catholic church and hired Michelangelo to create something special to sit at the head of his tomb when he died. His exact request was that Michelangelo create “the most beautiful work of marble in Rome, one that no living artist could better”. Wow. This cardinal was an humble guy, wasn’t he?
- While the humble owner of the sculpture did have it sit on his tomb for 200 years, but now is sit in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
- The stone used to create this masterpiece is the most beautiful type of marble – Carrara marble.
- Michelangelo was jealous when someone else got credit for this fantastic sculpture, that some consider his very best work, so he signed it. Later he regretted doing it as he considered the signature vain and he never signed anything else.
- Michelangelo had his own thoughts on the fountain of youth. How is it that Mary, in this sculpture, looks far too young to have a 33 year old son? According to Michelangelo, a holy woman looks younger than the norm.
- Michelangelo had his own style used in this sculpture. This work isn’t entirely Renaissance and it isn’t entirely Classical either. He managed to capture the best of both.
- La Pieta is one of the major Michelangelo accomplishments and it was attacked in 1972. A Hungarian man attacked the statue with a hammer and did some serious damage before being stopped. Now, you can only see the lovely statue through protective glass.
- This was the second time it was displayed behind glass. While on display in the United States at a world’s fair in 1964, the sculpture was displayed behind 4900 pounds of plexiglass.
- Michelangelo works on this sculpture for almost two years.
- Mary’s had was damaged in a move – four fingers were broken off.
- Each time the statue is damaged there is much discussion as to how to proceed. Should the piece be left alone? Repaired? Repaired to look as the original? Each time the voting was the same – the repair is to make it look as much like the original as possible.
Read more about visiting the eternal city for your family vacation. Rome is really high on everyone’s travel bucket list!
If you take the kids with you be SURE to get a copy of The Educational Tourist’s Travel Activity Guide to Vatican City – written just for the kid travelers. It is full of great activities and information just for the kids in your travel group.
Natalie, The Educational Tourist