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Pietà by Michelangelo

Basilica di San Pietro, Pietà di Michelangelo

Pieta by Michelangelo

Pietà by Michelangelo depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. The theme is of Northern European origin, and Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pietà was unprecedented in Italian sculpture as it balanced the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty together with extraordinary naturalism. Christ’s face does not reveal signs of his suffering. Michelangelo did not want his version of the Pietà to represent death, but rather to show the serene faces and relationship of  Son and Mother. It is the only piece Michelangelo ever signed.

The Pieta is of a triangular form, starting with Mary’s head it widens progressively downward with the drapery of Mary’s dress, to the rock of Golgotha. Much of Mary’s body is covered by her monumental drapery, and the relationship of the figures appears mystically natural. Michelangelo’s interpretation of the Pietà was far different from those previously created by other artists, as he sculpted a young and beautiful Mary rather than an older woman. With Jesus, the marks of the Crucifixion are limited to very small nail marks and the wound on his side.

Pieta was the first of a number of works of the same theme by Michelangelo. The statue was commissioned by a French Cardinal for his funeral monument, but was instead moved to the first chapel on the right as one enters the St. Peter’s Basilica, in the 18th century. After a 1972 violent attack of the Pieta, the work was restored and returned to its place in St. Peter’s and is now protected by a bulletproof acrylic glass panel.


Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the Renaissance who was born in Florence, and who had a monumental influence on the development of Western art. He is described as one of the greatest artists of all time, and he is often considered as a contender for the title of the leading representative of Renaissance man, along with his rival, Leonardo da Vinci.



  • Title:                        Pietà
  • Artist:                      Michelangelo
  • Year:                        1498–1499
  • Materials:               Marble
  • Dimensions            174 cm × 195 cm (68.5 in × 76.8 in)
  • Museum:                 St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City


  • Name:                     Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
  • Born:                      1475 – Caprese near Arezzo, Republic of Florence
  • Died:                       1564 (aged 88) – Rome, Papal States (present-day Italy)
  • Notable works:


“There are three classes of people:
Those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”

– Leonardo da Vinci


Photo Credit: Carlo Pelagalli [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons