Michelangelo’s Pieta – The only piece he signed
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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 a 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.
Keep those travel memories alive with a Christmas ornament! We love putting on holiday music and decorating the tree each year. We talk about the ornaments and the memories they represent as we unwrap them. It is one of my favorite evenings of the whole year!
We even have an entire tree for the ‘ornament’ souvenirs we bring back from our trips! Take a look at our fun tree!
CLICK HERE – The Travel Ornament Souvenir Christmas Tree
Read more about visiting the eternal city for your family vacation. Rome is really high on everyone’s travel bucket list!
CLICK HERE – Visit Rome with Kids
CLICK HERE – Visiting Rome’s Colosseum with the Kids
CLICK HERE – The BEST 5 Day Itinerary for a Visit to Rome, The Eternal City in Italy
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.
CLICK HERE – Kids’ Travel Activity Guide to the Vatican
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
Interesting story – I wish you had a photo of the piece that showed his signature in the sash – that would have been so cool!
The angle makes it hard to even see the signature because it is best seen from the top and you have to look up at the Pieta, but you are SO right. I should have included a photo! So, I found one and have included a link to it now. Thanks for the tip!
Thanks for sharing this cool piece of information! If only Michelangelo would have known how famous he would be for all of time, he’d have no reason to take offense 😉
That is an interesting idea and I’m sure you are right! He was certainly arrogant in life so perhaps he is smiling now knowing how famous he is… Thanks for stopping by!
That is interesting. I didn’t realize that he was a sculptor. Thanks for the tip, and now I feel a little more prepared for when I head back to Rome 🙂
He is so well known as a painter it is interesting to know that sculpting was his first love. As a matter of fact, he had to have his arm twisted to paint the sistine chapel as he really didn’t want to!
OMG, I didn;t know…I should have looked for that signature!
A cool tidbit! Thanks for stopping by!
It’s an incredible sculpture–have seen it several times.
Have you see his other Pieta in Milan? It is shocking it is so different and I never in a million years would have guessed it was his. We literally gasped when we walked in the room. Our guide said, “Oh, I see you have seen his Pieta in the Vatican!”
Great bit of trivia, I never knew that !
Love stuff like this and so do the kids! My eBooks for kids are full of it. Talking to them about these sorts of details keeps them happy and engaged while grownups enjoy the art! Thanks for stopping by!
Who knew Michelangelo had a bit of a jealous streak?
LOL! I think he really did. I read that he and Leonardo da Vinci hated each other.
What an amazing artist – it is worth traveling around the world to see his work.
So true. Do you have a favorite?
Michelangelo was an amazing artist!!
La Pieta, the Sistine Chapel…. the artwork he left at Vatican, and in the whole Italy are incredible.
Tks for sharing such curious information.
I always look for the curious info like this – kids love it! Thanks for stopping by.
This is cool! We are hoping to get to Rome in a few months, so it will nice to point this little known fact out to my kids.
Rome is my all time favorite destination for the family and I have an entire book of tidbits and history and activities just for the little ones. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Kids-Travel-Guide-Rome-Educational/dp/0989970507/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1438003224&sr=8-4&keywords=the+educational+tourist