“Alla quale opera non pensi mai scultore né artefice raro potere aggiungere di disegno, né di grazia, né con fatica poter mai di finezza, pulitezza e di traforare il marmo con tanta arte, quanto Michele Agnolo vi fece, perché si scorge in quella tutto il valore et il potere dell’arte”
(“To which work you never think sculptor or creator rarely can add design, nor grace, nor with difficulty ever being able to finesse, cleanliness and to pierce marble with so much art, what Michele Agnolo did to it, because you can see in that whole the value and power of art”)
With these words Vasari expressed himself in describing the magnificence of Michelangelo’s Pietà, one of the artist’s most famous sculptures built between 1498 and 1499.
The marble work was commissioned to Michelangelo, through the banker Jacopo Galli, from the French cardinal Jean de Bilhères, ambassador of King Charles VIII to Pope Alexander VI and was destined for the chapel of Saint Petronilla.
In 1517 the work was transferred to the sacristy of the Basilica of San Pietro in the Vatican and in 1749 moved to its present location, the first chapel to the right of the central nave of the Basilica.
In 1972 an Australian geologist in a raptus of madness to the cry of “I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!” (I am Jesus Christ, risen from the dead!) He gave the sculpture fifteen hammer strokes before being arrested, causing significant damage.
Michelangelo’s piety is a unique work of its kind, the sculptural piety, belonged to the Nordic tradition and were mostly depicted on a wooden support.
Michelangelo also innovates the same aesthetic and iconographic aspect of piety, his piety does not respond to the traditional pattern that the bodies of the Virgin and Jesus saw in a rigid and not very harmonious contrast, Michelangelo’s piety in fact depicts Jesus lying softly and natural on Mary’s legs and between the two dominates an intimacy and a composure of feelings.
The finishing level of the sculpture is extreme, above all the anatomical modeling of the bodies and the drapery of the Virgin.
Michelangelo and Carrara
Michelangelo went to Carrara around 1496 to personally choose the block of marble to be used to sculpt his Pietà, in that year the association between the artist and the city was born, a bond destined to last a long time as evidenced by numerous documents and as confirmed by Michelangelo himself in some of his writings, numerous visits between 1505 and 1525, of these passages, in particular one remains his signature, dated precisely 1525, on the bas-relief of Fantiscritti.
The analysis of the documentation shows a deep bond between Michelangelo, the City and the Quarries, in Carrara Buonarroti lived for short periods, it seems that he even rented a house in Piazza del Duomo; he sculpted, he attended assiduously the quarries and probably from these experiences he drew inspiration for some of his works.