ArtLex Art Dictionary




PPietà or pietà - An Italian word meaning pity, compassion, and sorrow, it is strongly associated with works of art portraying the Virgin Mary holding and mourning over the dead body of Jesus. Although the term derives from the Latin word pio, which means pious, pietà does not itself mean pious or piety. [Thanks for clarifying this, Conor Deane in Rome.]

(pr. pee-ay-tah')







see thumbnail to leftMichelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564), The Rome Pietà [see thumbnail to rightdetail of the faces of Christ and the Madonna], 1498-1500, marble, entire height 68 1/2 inches, maximum width of base 76 3/4 inches, maximum depth 27 1/8 inches, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Rome. Carved in Rome for the French King Charles VIII's ambassador to Pope Alexander VI.




see thumbnail to rightMichelangelo Buonarroti, The Florence Pietà, between 1550-1555, marble, height 7 feet 5 inches (226 cm), width 4 feet 3/8 inch, depth 3 feet 1 inch, Cathedral (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo), Florence.

see thumbnail to leftA second view. Mary is to the right, with Mary Magdalene to the left. [Detail of the heads of Jesus and Mary.] Standing is Joseph of Arimathea, who gave his Lord his own freshly cut, unused tomb. The features of Michelangelo's face can be seen in those of Joseph of Arimathea. Michelangelo intended this sculpture to be placed above the altar of his tomb chapel.





see thumbnail to rightMichelangelo Buonarroti, The Milan Pietà (Pietà Rondanini), marble, height 6 feet 4 3/4 inches (195 cm), Castello Sforzesco, Milan. [Detail of the heads of Jesus and Mary.] Begun in 1553 and soon interrupted, this is Michelangelo's last work, carved during the last year of his life, 1564.






see thumbnail to leftMatteo Rosselli (Italian, 1578-1650), Pietà, 1627, sanguine, 41.5 x 30.50 cm. This drawing was certainly inspired by Michelangelo's sculpture.



Alessandro Algardi (Italian, 1598-1654), Pietà, c. 1630s, octagonal bronze relief (a rectangular frame conceals corners), excluding flange: 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 inches (29.8 x 29.8 cm), Frick Collection, NY.





see thumbnail to leftWilliam-Adolphe Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905), Pietà, 1876, oil on canvas, 230 x 148 cm. See academic, French art, and kitsch.




see thumbnail to rightRoy De Maistre (English, 1894-1968), Pietà, 1950, 152.4 x 114.3 cm, Tate Gallery, London. See English art.



see thumbnail to leftLuis Jiménez (American, 1940-2006), Southwestern Pietà, 1983, 30 x 44 inches, lithograph, collection of Gary D. Keller Cárdenas. The Hispanic Research Center at Arizona State University offers further information about Luis Jiménez, this artwork, see thumbnail to righta large sculpture by Jiménez with the same title, and the contexts of these works, along with viewpoints for interpreting them. See Chicano/a art.



Pietà is comparable to the subjects of these works:



see thumbnail to leftPetrus Christus (Netherlandish, active by 1444, died 1475/76), The Lamentation, c. 1450, oil on wood panel, overall 10 1/8 x 14 inches (25.7 x 35.6 cm); painted surface 10 x 13 3/4 inches (25.4 x 34.9 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.



see thumbnail to rightÉdouard Manet (French, 1832-1883), The Dead Christ and the Angels, 1864, oil on canvas, 70 5/8 x 59 inches (179.4 x 149.9 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.



Also see expression and Madonna.




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