Michelangelo’s Pietà in Sforza Castle

The itinerary of the Museum of Classic Arts is crowned with one of the greatest masterpieces of the Sforza Castle collection – the Rondanini Pietà of Michelangelo. The sculptural composition struck me as unusual. Involuntarily, his famous Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vaticancame to my mind.

Unlike refined perfection of Vatican’s chef-d’oeuvre, the Rondanini sculpture astonishes with its rough expressiveness. I could hardly believe that it was created by Michelangelo. Surprisingly enough, this Pietà stirred up more thoughts and emotions than its famous twin. An innovative vertical installation of figures of Christ and the Virgin is rather unusual and very dynamic. It is clear that more efforts are needed in order to hold a body in vertical position than to keep a body lying on one’s lap. These visible efforts give tragic element to the whole composition. The very incompleteness of the sculpture disposes to meditation about the author’s message. Moreover, the composition looks very up-to-date. The roughly sculpted forms are animated with many chisel marks on the marble surface.

It is known that Michelangelo worked on the sculpture throughout many years until his death in 1563. He started the work about 1552, when he made a series of sketches which are kept in the Christ Church College, Oxford. Initially, he wanted to produce the Deposition but later on he decided to depict only the Virgin holding Christ’s lifeless body. The artist once again revised his concept making the figures clasp in convulsive embrace. Traces of two versions are clearly visible today.

For long years the work was underestimated and regarded as unfinished and of little value. In 1744, it was bought by marquises Rondanini and was hosted in their palace in Rome and after that in a Roman villa. In 1952, it was acquired by the Municipal Art Collection and transferred to the Sforza Museums.

More posts about Milan

A Day and a Morning in the Mediaeval Milan

The Milan Cathedral, Heartbreaking Gothic Splendor

Breathtaking Walk on the Duomo’s roof

Sforza’s Stronghold in the Heart of Milan

Useful links

Castello Sforzesco

The Rondanini Pieta


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