Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Michaelangelo in Rome

"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the job of the sculptor to discover it." Michaelangelo Buonarotti

Moses - Church of St. Peter in Vincoli

The statue of Moses at the basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli was to have been part of a grandiose monument and tomb for Pope Julius II, a patron of Michelangelo Buonarotti. But this same pope pulled Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (1508-1512), a project that lasted four years. Not surprisingly, the scaled down version of the tomb was not completed until 1515. At eight feet in height, Moses is an all powerful figure, his muscles bulging from his arms and legs and transparent through the folds of his gown. He has a crown of horns symbolizing the “ray of light”, a misinterpretation of the Hebrew word karan which may also refer to horn depending on how it is read.

Pieta

The Pieta in the Basilica of St. Peter's was once the object of a madman who hammered away at Mary's nose, arm, hand and eyelid. This was in 1972 and it was painstakingly restored to its current state. Today the Pieta is behind a bullet proof acrylic glass panel for its own protection.

Michelangelo created the Pieta between 1498-1499 for a French cardinal, Jean de Billeheres, who commissioned it for his own tomb. It is carved from Carrara marble. In this pyramidal sculpture, Mary supports her lifeless son on her lap. Her youthful face is calm despite her suffering  over the death of her son. Michelangelo masterfully echoes the turmoil within Mary in the heavy folds of her gown. This is the only piece of work that Michelangelo has ever signed.

Christ Bearing the Cross

Inside the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in the neighborhood of the Pantheon, the statue of Christ Bearing the Cross stands to the left of the main altar. This statue was started by Michelangelo while in Florence and was later left with one of his apprentices to finish when he moved to Rome. The apprentice, Pietro Urbano, damaged the statue and he was replaced by Federico Frizzi. The drapery over the naked Christ was added during the Baroque period.

This statue seems pale in comparison to the figures of Moses and the Pieta. Perhaps the intrusion of other hands to finish this piece and having to cover up the damage done by Urbano may have altogether altered the work started by Michelangelo.  

Michelangelo (1475-1564) was a true Renaissance man. He was not only a sculptor, he was an exceptionally gifted painter. He painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the Last Judgement on the altar of said chapel. He also designed the dome of St. Peter's Basilica and the uniform of the Swiss Guards is attributed to him as well. And to cap his many talents, he wrote poetry. 

Despite his impressive body of work, Michelangelo had this to say about his oeuvres“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius.” 

Moses
St. Peter in Chains
Piazza San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a
Metro: Colosseo or Cavour
free admission

Pieta
St. Peter's Basilica (see also the dome designed by Michelangelo)
Vatican
free admission

Christ Bearing the Cross
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Piazza Minerva
(near the Pantheon)
free admission

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Images by Charie

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