Michelangelo Buonarroti, Pietà Bandini

Michelangelo Buonarroti
1547-1555 c.
Original location
Cathedral (formerly Rome, private collections)
White marble
Height: 277 cm; Width: 138 cm; Depth: 125 cm;

Marble group of the Deposition of Christ from the Cross or in the Sepulchre, one of Michelangelo Buonarroti’s last works, which he left unfinished, sculpted between circa 1547 and 1555. The marble plaque with inscription by Florentine craftsmen commemorates the work’s removal from the Basilica of San Lorenzo to the Cathedral. Carved by Michelangelo as a monument for his own tomb, this statue was owned by the Bandini family in Rome for a number of years, until it was purchased by Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici in 1671. On arrival in Florence it was initially housed in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, then moved to a position behind the high altar in the Cathedral in 1722, before being placed in the chapel of Saint Andrew in 1933. It has been in the museum since 1981. The Pietà depicts the body of Jesus supported by Nicodemus as he lies in the arms of his mother Mary, assisted by Mary Magdalene. Christian tradition has it that Nicodemus was a sculptor, and he is believed to be a self-portrait of the seventy-year old Michelangelo, showing his pious care for the body of Jesus. The theme of death and burial, with the Christian hope of resurrection, is joined here in a typically Catholic reflection on the Eucharist. Because Pietà images were usually placed above an altar, they reiterate the concept that the "body" that the faithful receive during Mass, in the consecrated host, is actually the physical body of the crucified, buried and resurrected Christ.