Michelangelo Buonarroti is perhaps best-known for his paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but Michelangelo’s true passion was sculpture. One of his most iconic sculptures is his statue of David, but his David, while being a very beautiful piece of sculpture, does not amount to the sheer power and emotion of the Pieta. The Pieta shows a young Virgin Mary holding the limp body of Jesus Christ in her lap. Michelangelo’s remarkable craftmanship with marble shows how heavy the scene is but using such large folds in Mary’s drapery and by making the weight of Christ feel very heavy, such as the burden of losing a child.
So why talk about this piece?
The Pieta got a lot of backlash at first. Why is Mary so young? Why is she so big compared to Christ?
According to Fred Kleiner, “Michelangelo explained Mary’s ageless beauty as an integral part of her purity and virginity.” Christ himself also appears very beautiful as he seems to be peacefully asleep than dead. Michelangelo also made a point to make the wounds at his hands and feet barely visible.
As for Mary’s size, art historians have theorized Mary acting as both a mother and a throne. In many paintings and sculptures, Mary has always acted as a throne for a young Christ, just like the Morgan Madonna from Auvergne, France. Here, Michelangelo capitalizes on that by making her so large.