Michelangelo was almost eighty years old when he began this sculpture, his third Pieta. He gave his own features to Nicodemus, one of the two men who removed Christ from the cross. Nicodemus may have been a sculptor himself, thus giving a certain "professional" identification for Michelangelo. However, it's said he assumed this role because of the words Nicodemus spoke to Christ on the subject of Spiritual Rebirth: "How can a man be born when he is old?" (John 3:4).
Vasari said that Michelangelo angrily smashed the elbow of the Madonna because of a flaw in the marble (another source says it was because of the impatient comment someone made... When will you finish?). He left it unfinished, to be completed by Tiberio Calcagnio.
Michelangelo underwent a deep religious conversion in the last decades of his life. In this sculpture, the body of Christ - still powerful and youthful even in death - has been "Born" from the aged body of Michelangelo, as if the great artist was already undergoing an inner rebirth whose sure sign of human compassion is written in his features.
~From the Museum Information
Museo di Santa Maria del Fiore
November 10, 2012
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