During the Italian renaissance, Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists and at the same time, a great leader. Michelangelo is remembered for his great talents in painting as well as developing sculptures. The famous sculptures developed by Michelangelo reveal alteration of similar scenes. The Virgin Mary and the body of the dead Christ after his crucifixion depict the variation of the famous sculptures by Michelangelo. The collection of the four sculptures as developed by Michelangelo, commonly referred to as Pietas contained their unique features. Besides, they were developed at different periods of time, thus they contained differing features depending on the times they were developed (Toker, 1997).
Description of three of Michelangelo’s sculptures
St. Peter’s Pieta
St. Peter’s Pieta is regarded as probably the World’s most famous sculpture that has a religious connotation. Michelangelo is said to have developed the sculpture when he was only twenty four years old. The sculpture is unique as it is also the only one that Michelangelo is said to have ever signed. The fame of this sculpture lies in several features that Michelangelo put into it. For instance, the painting contains beautiful lines and expressions that bewilder anyone who comes across it. Michelangelo has strived to give the sculpture a highly spiritual and Christian view of the human suffering as experienced by the dead Christ. Prior to the development of the sculpture by Michelangelo, artists before him mostly depicted virgin with the dead Christ who was in her arms showing immense grief. The virgin was also depicted as though at the verge of desperation. On his part, Michelangelo created a highly supernatural feeling in the sculpture.
The manner in which the virgin holds the lifeless body of Christ in her lap depicts a feeling completely different from that of a grief stricken. In fact, her face emanates sweetness, serenity as well as a majestic appreciation of the sorrowful state. The feeling is combined with the Virgin’s faith in the dead redeemer. From the appearance that the virgin depicts, it is like the dead Christ is soon going to re-awaken from the seemingly peaceful slumber that he is in. Similarly, her facial appearance shows as though the suffering and the thorns, often regarded as the rose of resurrection, is soon blooming and the dead Christ will soon resurrect. A contemplation of the Pieta reveals a feeling of peace and tranquility. Just as the dead Christ went through the sufferings and the depiction of hope from the virgin, the great sufferings of life and the accompanying pains can be completely mitigated.
Through the St. Peter’s Pieta, many Christians are able to remember the price that Christ paid to ransom their redemption. Due to the remembrance, they mostly pray in silence in reverence of the honorable action. The specific prayers that the Christians usually say are those of “salve Regina” or “Sub tuum presidium”. Similarly, Christians say another prayer that pertains to the sufferings encountered by Christ in search of the redemption for the Christians. There was criticism on the way Michelangelo depicted Virgin Mary as being so young. She is actually expected to have been about forty five to fifty years old at the time. Following Peter’s tomb, the Pieta is said to be the most frequently visited place. It is also credited for being the most silent location in the entire Basilica (Crispino, 2001). The depiction of the Virgin Mary as being so young was deliberately done by Michelangelo. He intended to bring the complete feeling of happiness and enthusiasm in her. According to Michelangelo, the impacts of the period were not capable of demonstrating the Virginal features of the most blessed of all women. Michelangelo also said that he contemplated the face of his own mother who had died when he was only five years old. For Michelangelo, the mother’s face was a sign of eternal youth.
The Florentine disposition, also referred to as the Florentine Pieta is yet another great artistic work by Michelangelo. The disposition was kept in the museum, Duomo in Florence. Michelangelo did nod depict the exact historical moment that the pieta was developed. The dead body of Christ had been taken from the cross in the pieta. The sculpture shows Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene and Mary as the other three figures. From the pieta, one leg of the dead Christ was broken off as a result of the defective block of the marble. At the time of development of the pieta, Michelangelo is thought to have been about seventy three years old. The pieta was to be placed in Santa Maria del Fiore, which was the cathedral in Florence. Michelangelo did not work on the pieta in a continuous manner. He intermittently worked on it for a period of ten years during which he undertook other projects entrusted upon him. Perhaps the fact that the curving was not a commissioned work is the reason why it took such a long period of time. The curving was basically part of the hobbies that had become part of Michelangelo’s life. The old age at which the great artist was, was composed of many issues that prompted him to curve sculptures depicting death. Thus he was interested in merging his sole with that of God the more in most of his later sculptures and paintings.
Probably, the Florentine Pieta was meant for the artist’s own tomb. In the pieta, the crumbled figure of Christ is supported by Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Nicodemus. The artist left the broken statue of Christ. The statue was never completed by the Michelangelo. As a result, Tiberio Calcagni tried to complete it. However, the pupil and a young friend passed on before he could immensely damage Michelangelo’s work. For instance, Calcagni’s work on Mary Magdalene is totally incongruent with Michelangelo’s way of presenting his sculptures. Due to the alterations made on Michelangelo’s work, it is important to look at the past conceptions of the artist before obtaining the rightful significance of his work. The sad but tender face that Joseph depicts in the pieta reveals the true features of Michelangelo. The period between the beginning of the Rome Pieta and that of Florence was approximately fifty years. The most interesting thing about the style of sculpture used by Michelangelo had completely changed during the two periods to a level such that it was impossible to exactly tell that the two sculptures had actually been developed by the same person. Most of the early Pieta curved by Michelangelo contained polished details as well as classical concepts. However, they were replaced by the rough dramatic style which through angular lines captured the pathos of the view.
The sculpture, Florentine deposition demonstrates the intentions of the artist to secure his own salvation especially during the last face of his phase of his life. The Pieta contains vertical axis of the group defined through the sinking and severally torqued as well as muscular body of the dead Christ. In the pieta, Michelangelo developed his own features about Nicodemus. Thus he is given more positive self-representation than the skin that Bartholomew holds in the last Judgment. The posture shown by Nicodemus aligns to the promise on redemption that Christ was offering. Similarly, in the pieta, Michelangelo displaced the Virgin to the right; an assumption that of the primary role by Michelangelo himself. An interpretation of the Virgin in Ecclesia shows as though Michelangelo would have taken Christ’s salvation in his hands. As a result, there would be a supplementation of the role played by the church. The smashing of the sculpture is mostly attributed to the rise of eyebrows from people. In reality, Christ’s left leg originally slung over the Virgin’s lap. The pose often connotes a sexual intercourse. However, in the contexts of the Pieta, Christ is seemingly married to the church. The pieta is thus not a whole self connotation by the artist; it is as a result of differing insights into the personal life of the artist as well as the deeply felt religious considerations.
The pieta is said be the most Pathetic of the unfinished sketch developed by Michelangelo. The Sculpture was curved towards the end of the tyrannicide Lorenzino de Medici Period. As the sculpture was incomplete, there are no conclusive results about its main reason for the development by the artist. Similarly, the sculpture depicts some extent of grief. In the sculpture, the mourning mother of the dead Christ is standing on an elevation just behind the son. She had held the body in an upright manner in front of the son’s shoulders. Nevertheless, the sculpture contains just some basic items of Michelangelo’s style of curving and format in painting. The Pieta, Palazzo Rondini, Rome is therefore incomplete in relation to the nature of items considered vital in the analysis of the sculpture. The period preceding 155O can be referred as the most complicated as well as the one when more finished group of Michelangelo’s Pieta were developed. The corpse of the dead Christ was represented as collapsing in a manner that depicted total relaxation. The relaxation was through the hands of the people who tried to uphold the great feeling. As Michelangelo destined the sculpture for his own Sepulchre, it now stands in the Cathedral at Florence. The manner in which the different items of the sculpture were developed relied heavily on the significance of the items that led to proper understanding of the sculpture.
The Palazzo Rondini painting is an Entombment of Christ. In spite of the fact that it is unfinished, it bears all the vital marks that Michelangelo used as his style. Similarly, the painting of the entombment of Christ seems to have been developed from a cartoon created by Michelangelo. Some of the major touches by Michelangelo in the Painting demonstrate the evidence on the involvement of Michelangelo in his schedule. For instance, Michelangelo is said to have worked on the hands in the body of Christ. Other parts which demonstrate some degree of incompletion in Michelangelo’s format are works done by students as well as imitators. The practice has not been successful enough as there is no one available at a particular period to completely integrate the major formats embraced.
Some formal analysis of Michelangelo’s Pietas
Some formal basis for the discussion has been successfully addressed in the analysis. However, there are some major formal issues that need to be addressed. The St. Peter’s Pieta was developed by Michelangelo the moment he returned from Rome. The work is obviously regarded as one of the most famous for Michelangelo (Stokstad, 2007). The St. Peter’s Pieta has a realistic portrayal of factors relating to the creation of the sculpture as Michelangelo. The importance of all the attributes demonstrates a significant level of devotion towards painting by Michelangelo. The Pieta has had to be enlarged in order to accommodate the enlarging figure. In fact, it is impossible to fully express the size of the young Virgin. There was an adjustment done on the composition by enlarging the Mary’s figure in the Pieta. Apparently, the size of Mary in the Pieta was not properly recognized due to distraction caused by the folds in the drapery of the Virgin. In order to accommodate Mary’s size, it was important that composition of the pieta be altered. As a result, the distracted folds in the drapery of the Virgin Mary were developed. They were important for the realistic portrayal of flesh and muscles. Similarly, the pieta demonstrated a harmonious composition through the integration of rational allocations. Moreover, the Saint Peter’s Pieta is said to have had issues concerning its possession and origin. The heated argument over the credibility by the rivals and imitators prompted Michelangelo to sneak in to the Cathedral and inscribe his signature on it (Boime, 1987).
Florentine deposition is one more sculptural work done by the Michelangelo. There are certain aspects of the Deposition that demonstrate some level of formal development and progress of the sculpture. Michelangelo was such a creative artist. He would do deliberate things in order to avoid the scrutiny and eventual full opposition by the people. For instance, he deliberately altered the content of the Deposition in order to effectively shield himself from the controversy that the ambiguous content was likely to bring about to occurrence. The different aspects of the deposition were relevant for eventual maintenance of Michelangelo work in to rigid and immense exposition on different tissues concerning the development of the pieta. The Florentine education received by Michelangelo prompted him to embrace different attitudes towards his artistic work. A firm grounding that he received right from the age of thirteen formed the path the Michelangelo was to take in the days of his life. For example, Michelangelo learned some aspects of traditional techniques as well as practices associated with painting and sculpture for enjoying yourself. The training and exposition that Michelangelo received was basically under the tutelage of Domenico Ghirlando as well as sculpture by Bertondo Di Giovanni. The adolescent days of Michelangelo were characterized with extreme exposition to art work. As a result, art and thought of past old world in a privileged Lorenzo de’Medici. Whole in the place, Michelangelo experienced a celebrated record of past that was completely full of classical works and art that experts of the time had developed (Stokstad, 2007).
A great relationship exists in all works that contain some aspects of art. The exposition that Michelangelo had had with various artists such as the humanist poets as well as Philosophers was highly important for the full development of skills and prowess in him. Several people have laid a foundation in the life of Michelangelo in attaining the best skills and capabilities towards in the world of art (Boime, 1987). Some good example of the influential persons in Michelangelo’s life includes Marsilio Ficino as well as Angelo Poliziano. The moment he developed the best practices as well as the familiarization on the better ways of tackling creative works, He set out for the already prepared work. Thus Michelangelo absorbed the humanist as well as classical doctrines which are always regarded paramount for establishment of fair principles and doctrines vital for the maintenance of steady flow of knowledge. It is during this very young age that Michelangelo developed interests in the Neo-Platonism which had been espoused by two philosophers: Poliziano and Ficino. At the same time, he found his deeply seated interests in rationalistic humanism. The knowledge was on the further enhanced by the sermons that the Dominican Monk; Girolamo Savonarola gave. These had the fundamentalist attacks on the culture that did not recognize God as well as the corrupt practices found in the church. As a young artist, Michelangelo was deeply religious. Thus the knowledge he obtained struck such an amazing chord in his heart. Early experiences were very paramount in Michelangelo’s life. It is however, the results that one finally attains after committing efforts in an issue. Michelangelo was able to acquire a clear focus on the development of Tuscan art, from Giotto de Bondone via Masaccio and finally to Donatello (Brookner, 1980).
Jacques Louis David’s Death of Marat
Marat’s death presents an idealistic portrait that Jacques-Louis David painted. The painting depicts the assassination that was done on one of the leaders in French Revolution. The man who was assassinated was Jean-Paul Marat. The Jacobins were a group of prominent members; Marat was a member of the group. Similarly, he was a founder of a newspaper publication that seemed to touch on controversial issues that were going on at the time. In fact, the newspaper was referred to as ‘Llama dug Peuple’ which meant ‘the Friend of the People’. The name that Marat used for the newspaper converted him into exactly the name. Through the popular newspaper of Marat, he incited the popular culture to call for the opposition and violence against the politicians. Likewise, Marat was also a member of another group called the Sans Culottes. In spite of the fact that Marat had an influence over the Sans Culottes, they highly supported Marat in all his undertakings. Even though Marat was prepared, he was particularly concerned with one group: Girondins. A kind of a blame game existed between the Jacobins and the Girondins. The Jacobins blamed the Girondins because of the defeats in the wars as well as the skyrocketing food prices. The death of Marat is thus seen as a secular pieta. Following the murder of Marat by a woman sympathizer of the Girondins, the convention immediately commissioned Jacques –Louis David to paint a portrait of Marat. Through the painting, the momentum of the revolution would still continue. Thus David wanted to portray Marat in the most possible appealing way. Therefore, he painted him as a secular saint (Brookner, 1980).
Marat is thus seen as a very important person in the French Revolution. His participation in the movement greatly motivated other people in continuing with the movement. In spite of his death even without having attained his goals, people needed to be encouraged to participate in the movement. Thus he was worthy of the respect and remembrance by the people who had laid so mush hope in him and top whom he was a role model. By portraying Marat in the most appealing way, David was trying to create a scenario that would evoke a feeling of strength to the participants in the French Revolution. However, David’s painting of Marat showed extensive use of historical inaccuracies. For instance, Showing Marat holding the letter that Corday gave him and applying it to mean the source of freedom is untrue. In fact, she just wanted to use the letter as a way of getting into Marat whenever all other methods failed. Similarly, it is untrue that Marat was so reckless as to willingly sacrifice his life. Therefore, depicting him through an appealing portrait does not make sense (Radke & Paoletti, 1999). Marat had been assassinated while he was struggling to fight for the freedom of the people. To be sincere, he was least willing to put down his life; to die and leave his ambitions and dreams unachieved.
Focusing on the history of Pieta’s such as Michelangelo’s truth has always been the practice. Contrary to David’s painting, Michelangelo’s Piet, St. Peter’s, the feeling of the situation and the context can be grasped. The Pieta also addresses major issues associated with the crucifixion of Jesus. The Pieta reveals a moment that need to bring joy and happiness as through the death, there was an assurance of salvation. However, David’s work has some relationship with Michelangelo’s. It is questionable that he portrayed Mary as being so young and happy due to the death of the son. Nevertheless, David played a crucial role in the French Revolution. His active participation in the revolutionary movement was through art. After the imprisonment he got through his cynical actions in the revolution, he admired Napoleon I personality. Thus he created an empire style where Venetian color was very important. David’s influences were felt both negatively and positively. His revolutionary artistic work portrayed both technical know-how as well as political inclination.
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Brookner, A. Jacques-Louis David, Chatto & Windus. 1980
Crispino, E. Michelangelo. Gianni Editore Firenze Italy. 2001.
Radke, G. & Paoletti, T. Art in Renaissance Italy. Lawrence King Publishing. 1999.
Stokstad, M. Art history. Prentice Hall, 2007
Toker, F. Source Book: Introduction to the History of Western Art. Art Past/Art Present 1997