Michelangelo Pietà Restoration by ‘Friends of Florence’

Michelangelo sculpture to be restored.

The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (the organization which directs the Opera del Duomo or Cathedral Museum) announced the restoration of a piece of art, an immense sculpture by Michelangelo. The project is being financed by Friends of Florence. Work will go on until summer of 2020 and it will be conducted behind glass walls so that visitors to the museum will be able to see all the stages of the restoration as they are happening.

Friends of Florence is a non-profit which originated in the United States and has donated millions to conservation projects in Florence and around Tuscany. The donors of Friends of Florence have always been very dedicated to Michelangelo in preserving the great artist’s work.

The sculpture is called Pietà or sometimes called Pietà Bandini and sometimes “The Deposition of Christ” to distinguish it from Michelangelo’s first Pietà, which resides in Rome at the Vatican Museum. The sculpture is a marble portrayal of Jesus’s body removed from the cross and held by Nicodemus as well as the Madonna and Mary Magdalene. It was originally intended for Michelangelo’s own tomb in Santa Croce, though it did not end up there. Created in 1547, it is one of Michelangelo’s last masterpieces. Its home, the Opera del Duomo museum is dedicated to documenting the history of the Duomo and contains artwork that was previously displayed inside the Cathedral. 

Pietà was created during a dark time in Michelangelo’s life, after the death of his close friend Vittoria Colonna and a faithful servant of his named Urbino. After these tragedies, the Renaissance genius began preparing for his own death and working on his tomb. During this time Michelangelo was already celebrated as the most famous and accomplished living artist, but he lived as if he were poor in a small house, devoting all of his time sculpting. This work depicts one of the most dramatic scenes of the Gospel, where each person must envision their own death. This work is very personal to the artist, Michelangelo included his self portrait in the sculpture, his face is shown in that of Nicodemus, the man who is helping to hold up Christ’s body. 

Michelangelo never completed the statue group and actually tried to break it to pieces. A servant stopped him from destroying it and then gave the fragments to Tiberio Calcagni, one of Michelangelo’s collaborators. Calcagni reassembled the it, finished the body of Mary Magdalene and polished the now completed work. It was then sold to a Roman aristocrat, Francesco Bandini. 

Michelangelo had decided to leave the Pietà unfinished and attempted to destroy his work because of his perfectionism. Vasari wrote about Michelangelo in his Lives of the Artists and regarding the Pietà explained his critical mindset; Michelangelo judged all of his projects and was never happy with what he did. Though Michelangelo did not feel that the piece was perfect and even tried to erase his painstaking efforts, his sculpture survived; the Pietà, a piece so closely linked to death, lives on. (alexandra reilly)