Saturday, June 18, 2011

Michelangelo's Pieta

In a museum next to the Duomo in Florence, is Michelangelo's unfinished pieta. Above is my sketch of it. I only included the arm of the figure on the left, mostly out of laziness, but also because it is not the most interesting figure anyways.

The pose of Jesus is just perfect, lots of pathos, and a feeling of fate (as in somethings must be). I always liked the main figure behind Jesus, the man in the cloak holding Jesus in a way that he is almost presenting the body of Christ to us the viewers. I've always assumed the figure is Michelangelo himself, presenting the body of Christ, or his sculpture of Jesus to us the viewer. Apparently, the pieta was meant for Michelangelo's grave. Now the idea of the cloaked figure being Michelangelo himself makes even more sense.

Anyways, regardless of the identity of the cloaked figure the main achievement is really the body of Christ. Here, although still muscular, the Michelangelo makes the body of Christ seem weak and beaten by lengthening the limbs, and by the wonderfully limp/languid/resigned pose. The way the other figures support the body of Christ is also important, as they do it with such grace and care, yet the physical weight of the figure is also apparent. The slumping body being laid down as gently as possible, but the weight of the dead body pulls everything down. Man, this sculpture is really the finest poetry.

BTW: christ doesn't have a left leg in Michelangelo's sculpture. Really it just isn't there - this is after all an unfinished sculpture! It doesn't really seem to matter though, does it? Maybe the leg ruined the composition, and that's why Michelangelo quit the sculpture ('cause really you can't have Christ with a missing leg). Also, a beautiful detail is how christ holds the (in my drawing) missing figure on his right holding up his leg - he holds his arm so lovingly around her shoulder, but he's dead, right! It's such a beautiful contradictory gesture. His love extends past his death - that's the death of christ in a nutshell isn't it? I'm telling you this sculpture is sooooooo crazy good.

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