This 2016 episode delves into Michelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding the deceased body of Christ. It's the most famous depiction of that moment in art, but that scene has been the focus of many works. And once, the famous version took a trip across the ocean.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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hello and welcome to the podcast I'm Holly Friday, and I'm Tracy, B Wilson and today we're going to talk about what is perhaps the most famous of all
wages and Christian are definitely one of the most famous Peter, and I was originally going to research, just the attack on legal Angelos piazza in thanking seventy two, and we are going to talk about that, but, as I got
Researching that I ended up down this sort of wonderful rabbit hole
This image in art, history is depicted by many artists over time and specifically the ones that Michelangelo worked on, because there were more than one and we'll talk about it.
those. So this episode ended up really being a little bit of a smorgasbord. There is a little bit of light
history? There is a little bit about Michelangelo, but we're not really doing a biography of him were just talking about these works of art and kind of some of his life surrounding them, not in great depth and
a bit about art, debasement more than one in fact, and were also gonna touch on the great care that is needed to move a sculpture of the nature of the famous Pierre
Miguel angel- I worked on so for getting a little bit of all of that. In today's episode. Just in case you don't know, the appear tie in the general sense is any depiction or representation of the virgin Mary mourning over Christ's dead body. I don't know why I said
would like that, sounded so bleak re. While it is bleak, if they're very sad, you sugar will obviously the.
derives from the latin word for pity. However, the use of this word to apply to these pieces comes after they start to appear in art.
Here we see them starting these images of of Mary holding Christ after the crucifixion around the thirteenth century, but that word doesn't really come in that sense until I think the sixteen hundred so
Another thing that's interesting is that, although this is a significant moment in the christian religion, this scene in this, the symmetry that scene actually is at present in the gospels, like there's not a specific moment where they describe this, though,
Christ crucifixion, is in their dissent from the cross or the the deposition, as is often called
limitation Christ being laid on the ground,
in the end to men are all there in the new testament. But there really is no description of Mary cradling, her son, yet it became a really important image
in a lecture given by the Right Reverend Lord Harry's at the Museum of London in March, twenty fifteen, the speaker outlines the factors that he believes contribute to the origin of the piazza as a significant scene and religious art, despite had not actually being something. That's ever mentioned in Scripture Harry's describes the development of Devotion
images, verses, narrative images and whereas narrative religious are clearly shows a story playing out devotion,
Madrid takes these images out of their narrative context, and this came about in the thirteen hundreds.
wishing to an intense religious reverence. These images were basically so that the devoted could fix eight and think on the suffering of Christ as a part of personal prayer and meditation, so as part of a group of common devotional images to come out of Germany, specifically during the thirteen hundreds
theme of the pizza emerged. This is due to the fact that Mary, as a religious figure, was gaining a greater positions, so her suffering to was to be contemplated in devotional, marries p
and lament over Christ that had long been a part of religious writings. Before the visual of this moment of grief became a standard. There are three main types of peace
the first is the early german in which the torture of Christ is upright, with the head arms and legs at diagonal placements in relation to the torso
crisis, often portrayed in a smaller size compared to marry this Harkin's back to his child state. Sometimes, when you see these there, a bit jarring because he looks like in adult man but he's very small in relation to
Hurry and his suffering is usually depicted in in great depth and with clarity he looks like he's in terrible pain. Mary for her part, is often shown in deep sorrow. Her face is often contorted with grief and the first of these images in this style date back to again, the early thirteen hundreds, the second type which came about in the late fifteenth century, is characterized by Christ
body depicted with a continuous curve marries grief is often more restrained in these and she often holds her hands and a prayer position rather
holding the body of her son and the third type, which also dates back to the fifteenth century, is characterized by the body of Christ. In a horizontal, usually straw,
their position and these often feature more people in the tab blow, not just Christ and Mary, and there she often a peaceful landscape. In the background, and sometimes there is an architectural feature, Christ,
they're. Frequently, though, not always less of a focus. It's a little bit of a softer image. It's not so fraught with grief between one thousand three hundred and one thousand five hundred personal iconography became a lot more common previously to that art had been more of a public concept. So during this works of art representing the Pieta, became more prevalent.
People's private homes instead of just out in public spaces, so it is a little bit early on, but in the next segment it runs kind of long and we're going to talk about the three different versions of the Pieta, created by Michelangelo, so we're going to pause and do our sponsor break now, so we can keep all of that junk together. This episode is brought to you by Milano
Turkey's look, sometimes that long, Zen yoga classes, just not in the card, so maybe a cookie, is peppered farm. Olano believes you should make some time for yourself once in awhile. I know I have a particular space in my sewing room that I like to just take a few minutes. Every day I sit there. I think about things it's kind of like meditation and munching at the same time being it that yummy beautiful cookie flavour, it makes it luxurious and delightful and I always feel recharge. Mulatto cookies are truly a treat worthy of your me time, their delicate and crispy, with luxuriously rich chocolate in the middle. You really want to keep these just for you, so remember to save something for yourself with peppered farm olano support for stuff, you miss in history class comes forever
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perfect block of marble. He could find he found one eventually, which
nine, these meagre lambs low, still very young at this point- travelled from Florence to Venice and two bologna and eventually ended up in Rome in fourteen ninety. Six, when Michelangelo with
Commission to create his famous beata. He was only twenty four. The contract was signed on August, twenty seventh fourteen ninety eight
What document is actually now part of the Vatican's collection? The work was intended for the Funeral Chapel of Saint Petronia in Saint Peter's basilica. The person who requested Darwin
The french ambassador, Cardinal Bellair DE la guerrilla peace, would be part of the day core of the chapel, where he was to be interred and where funeral services would be given for other people as well. Once too,
asked with this piece, the artist Michelangelo set out to find the most perfect block of marble. He could find he found one eventually, which he claimed had no faults, and he set to work
Michelangelo work on Jean De Villiers Commission from one thousand four hundred and ninety eight to one thousand five hundred and he worked in the round, so you was able to access all sides of the peace at once and the finished sculpture weighs three tons
The latter had died in fourteen ninety nine, so he did not get to see the completed work. This scope
Sir, which a lot of our listeners have probably seen, at least in pictures of spectacular, will include a links in the share notes with a virtual tour of it online. It's really unique in its peacefulness Mary appears to be very young. It's an appearance that Michelangelo attributed to her purity when people criticized his choice to show her as a youth, the torso wound of Christ as minimized, and there is above almost all else. The sum
of Serenity. To the work rather than suffering. Mary is not directly touching the body of Christ. In this sculpture, there is actually a cloth carved in between
her hand and the sight of his torso, where she supporting him in this denotes the sacred nature of his physical body. The relative size is of the two figures is also something a note. While her head is proportional to her sons, the sculpture marries body is larger
I might them early german style of Pierre Towers and appears to be more of a visual and logistical, Mead and Michelangelo sculpture, marries by
he needed to be large enough to support her son and the depth of the cloth draped around Mary gives the sculpture and incredibly realistic effect, but also hides the size disparity.
In this commission. Peace was also intended to sit above the altar and the Funeral Chapter Chapel, so part of the size disparity was possibly.
add to a visual illusion both of Mary offering up Christ just as much
Those were offering up their deceased loved ones
and also if she had been a normal size in the sculpture like if you were standing near it. She then
appeared unrealistically tiny once the sculpture was placed in its intended position in the chapel, and we
Michelangelo kind of thought about these things and other sculptures. It comes up. People will talk about the David sometimes and how it was meant to be displayed in how the proportions work.
I did so. We know that he thought about this kind of thing and that we know he whispered
only aware of how I in sight line and presentation would affect the need for size. This was the only one of my landlady sculptures that he carved his full name into allegedly he'd overheard visitors, attributing the work to another artist after it had been installed in the chapel, and so he made his mark on the
urban draped across marries chest by night later, on, though he regretted having done that, and he vowed to never again put his name on his work because he found it to be pride full.
and this sculpture was so well received that it was a really significant factor in the launch of Michelangelo's career. This was again very early on. He was in his twenties.
Immediately upon its reveal. This was seen as a masterpiece and other artists flocked to the chapel to see it
and this is sort of one one- is wonderfully rare cases of an artist actually a being appreciated in his time, rather than after it, because Michelangelo Michelangelo lived another sixty four years after completing the data, so he was able to see the effect his work had on people and how beloved it was from basically day one of his existence. It kind of made him a rock star, so the piazza that you think I've when you hear the than Michelangelo that when that we have just been talking about, is most famous but not his
only depiction of that moment, just second to Utah, also known as the Florentine Pieta and the deposition was worked on it for a number of years, beginning in one thousand five hundred and forty seven, and this case was not commissioned. It was intended by the artist to adorn his own final resting place, and I said she was something of a passion project
nineteen theatre is kind of a puzzler. Its meeting is not immediately clear, both the stage of the Christ narrative and whose included
tat have really been debated by art historian at great length. In the narrative context. Some elements of the peace indicate that its representation of the deposition others head, but it's more of a p attire and yet others lead people to interpretation that is supposed to be the entombment of Christ.
it's even possible. That Michelangelo, intended to bland multiple narratives into this one work and therefore figures.
This sculpture so already were at a departure from the classic Marian Christ set up. One is Christ, one is the virgin Mary and another person is Mary, Magdalen
Force figure is where the confusion and the various interpretations really come into play. This fourth figure is a hooded for
in its mail and stands above the other three, and it is not entirely clear to everyone who is supposed to be. I will
when I say that there are people who believe very firmly that they know who it supposed to be. But debate continues, it could be the biblical figure Joseph of Aramis Thea, who provided his own, intended to as the resting place where Jesus after the crucifixion it could be Nickleby miss the fairest he who appears in the gospel of John and assists in the burial of Jesus. The naked demons
interpretation is a common one. Is the figure is Joseph of Aramis area that that figure, combined with the presence of Mary Magdalen, would suggest that this is an entombment peace as those two feet
ears are traditionally more associated with art. Depicting that phase of the narrative is, it is Nick Demas it may
it more strongly at being. The deposition, as both Joseph and academia are featured in that element in the narrative traditionally in art, but nicotine
is not normally featured in depictions of the entombment and one thousand five hundred and fifty five Mikelangelo attempted to destroy the Florentine Pieta. He was successful and breaking off Christ left leg and arm, and he chipped other section.
And why he did this is unclear, but there are a number of theories and the truth may lie in some combination of several or all of them. One is that the artist was troubled by a particular
problematic vein in the marble which frustrated him to the point of despair, and he just got angry and wanted to smash it. Anybody has done something. Creative can know that those moments have
another is that his servant had been nagging him to finish the peace which made him irritated with the whole enterprise again to the point where he was just frustrated and angry. Those two reasons were given by meekly
low himself, when pressed on the matter in the account written by one of his contemporaries, Georgie of a sorry, the third and fourth theories in
Finally, what happened are a little bit more involved, so the first of these involves the placement of Christ leg, which is slung across his mother's lamp
and that this was a problematic symbol that Michelangelo believed could be misconstrued or that he felt that he hadn't properly captured. So at this point,
history, a leg placed in another's lap held a sexual meaning. It suggested that the the pair involved in this crossing of legs across
jobs, were romantically, ironically entwined and for Christ to have his leg in his mothers
though, actually easily fit in with the symbolism of Mary representing the church. As the bride of Christ said, this was not necessarily an issue and there was existing art at the time that included the leg of crazy draped across Mary, as he was taken down
the deposition and is in a state where the body is not supported by the self. So it's it's grouping and its falling. It is possible, however,
though that Michelangelo was concerned, that there could be confusion, and so he intended to alter this peace by first. Removing the leg so is less of a destruction situation and, moreover, what
race and start over in fixing pieces. The fourth theory involves the hooded figure. Again, it's often been discussed, but the Nickleby must figure was also intended to be a self portrait of Michael Angelo as Nickleby Miss had connection to sculpting. This would have been a pretty
natural move on the part of the artist but meagrely Angelo had become more involved, with a school of belief, known as Nick Deem ISM, which I didn't wished to separate from the catholic church, but also held beliefs more in line with protestant values he may have intended to remove his likeness as Nicky missed
I'm the work in order to avoid suspicion that he was actually a religious dissenter, eventually Michelangelo
scented to allow one of his pupils to burial Kilkenny to restore the peace, but not the leg which may give credence to the slung leg theory. Balconies work was eventually completed. He did restore the other elements that have been
again, and it is now on display at the Museum Del Africa Del Duomo in Florence, ITALY, in the fifteen fifties, Michelangelo began yet a third p
sculpture the Rondanini Pieta. He worked on this piece right up until the week of his death in one thousand five hundred and sixty four, like the Florentine Pieta. This work was intended for himself rather than as a committee
and it breaks from the structure of the earlier works, depicting this moment instead of Mary holding her son in front of her. She stands behind him, not supporting him. It almost looks from some angles as though he,
actually supporting her, and this is a less refined and nuanced work than his two other Peters. If you look at photographs of them, you can tell obviously by comparison to the roman pizza, which is just the spectacular, beautiful, realistic. Looking thing. This is not at that level and in part, that was because near the time of his death, he hacked apart a lot of this statue and intended to start over and he retained only one of Christ's arms from
the original part of his work, but now we're gonna jump back to Michelangelo's Roman Piazza in nineteen. Sixty four, the sculpture was loaned to the New York Worlds: Fair, where
displayed as part of the Vatican Pavilion behind bulletproof glass, more speed
ethically was displayed behind seven sheets of bulletproof plexiglas, each of which weighed about seven hundred pounds, which is about three hundred and eighteen kilograms, but just to get the sculpture to New York from the Vatican took an incredible and careful effort properly packing and transfers
this priceless peace was a work of really careful engineering. A special committee called the Vatican Pavilion Transport Committee was formed to address this task.
and one of the challenges involved here was that no one really knew for certain precisely how delicate or
actual or strong. The statue was at this point. It had been sitting in the Vatican for hundreds of years, and there was a day
you're of internal figures in the marble they couldn't be seen just from external examination, but that could cause it to crack if it was bumped or moved in the wrong way when the peace had been moved within the Vatican roughly two centuries. Prior to this New York, adventure, the left hand
The virgin Mary had suffered damage, so there was a very real awareness of the danger involved in an overseas voyage. Varnish has
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radiologist, its firm Eastman Kodak were called in to make films of the piazza, and the marble was determined to be perfect, although x rays did clearly show pins that had been used to repair the damage hand, just the same. The engineers working on the packaging approach, the job, with the assumption that there were indeed fishers, so they designed the most shy
Proof ride that they possibly could. There were three nesting cases initially made for the job. The exterior case, with steel and inside that were to wooden cases in inside those was the p, a top and the weight of the cases. The statue in all of the packing materials had to be carefully calculated to
sure that, as the parcel travelled across the Atlantic Ocean on a ship, any shock would be
an absolute minimum and that all physical extensions of the arts of the pieces that are separate away from the main central peace would be carefully cradled and supported with the void spaces, carefully managed embraced. If you have access to J Store, when my sources on
is a very fantastic and very technical article about all of this, which includes tables of calculation, for static stress and all kinds of other testing, at laid out in gravity
full form. So, if you're interested in the nitty gritty of the engineering around this, I highly recommend you go. Take a peek at that to test the design of plaster replica of another Michelangelo statue. Moses was used to perform drop tests from heights, ranging from one hundred and seven to two hundred and sixty cm and similar packaging. The combination of nesting cases and loose phone bill prove successful in this testing. Compression testing was also performed. Eventually. Ii, in her case was abandoned to an able to use of more foam polystyrene, which added both cushion
and buoyancy. Should things go a right at sea? I can't imagine how stressed I would be if I were one of the people tasked with figuring this out that why are you doing it made me stress just reading
sky, and this the article I mention was written.
One of the engineers it worked on this, and it made me stress just reading his description of it, even though he seemed very like ok, we're solving these problems or figuring it our being meticulous and thorough and careful, but at all it was stressful, soda.
king procedure to actually get the sculpture into this casing was just as carefully planned as the design of the packaging itself. So for that previously broken hand that we mention each of the digits was wrapped in elastic bandage individually.
and then they carefully packed foam polystyrene in the gaps between the fingers and then the whole.
and was wrapped again that's just one example of sort of the care that they were taking.
The assembly of the wooden create was carefully choreographed like they. They had an exact number of stages and order of stages that, like every piece had to be put together as the sculpture was going into the creek,
and it multiple stages the foam polystyrene, which was in the form of these dilate beads, was added and again.
There's more more more detail of this extraordinary league complex and careful efforts in the article which I can't stop talking about to everyone, because I'm in love with that article, the Exterior steel case was painted white with blue markings and orange on top, because that's the most easy to see color at see. The case was in escorted extremely slowly on trucks to the dock police escort of it there and it was cable to the deck of the transport ship with extreme care and precision and that journey across the ocean.
To get to the dogs to get to the ship to get across the ocean to get to New York was just incredibly kind that engineer that road. That article was saying we did all this work and thankfully our work
hills were never really tested, because at no point did the parts
ever shifts like drop unprepared more than a third of a centimeter surreal.
all of that engineering effort. They were happy to do it and they were glad it was never really put to the test. But we don't know if they really like did everything perfectly given
fallen, we dont know still if it would have survived or not well in the sea is off. The sea removes a lot
there, I saw a terrifying photograph of this case
just strapped to the deck of the ship link it wasn't inside. It was- and I was all part of leg the plan because it was
waterproof and it was determined that that was a safer way to do it than to put it in a cargo hold. But oh my eye,
so stressful, look at these pictures, but be able
was not the only art that was sent to New York by the Vatican travelled along with an even older sculpture, the good shepherd, but the ph. I was really the star of the show that was displayed against a blue background, surrounded by vertical strings of vote of lights. Millions of people visited the pavilion to view it and you can find photographs in whom movies
get up and leave the display online. Yet there are lots of those available if you just do an internet search for tee TAT, New York Worlds, fair you'll instantly see just dozens and dozens of of in many cases, really beautifully taken photographs of how it was displayed and the world's fair appearance of the roman pizza,
was so incredibly popular that the Vatican started receiving a steady stream of requests for the statute to be loan for other events and overcome.
by all of this correspondence and unwilling to take the risk of having this prized work of our on a prolonged tour. The Vatican ended up issuing a statement that Michael
ETA would stay in Saint Peters permanently, once it returned home.
Although the new travel announcement was made in part to keep the piazza safe troubles still befell the statue in nineteen. Seventy two,
and this is really the only thing I was gonna talk about, but obviously I got interested and lots of other stuff along the way, so, while visiting Say Peters Basilica in ninety Sony, two and thirty three year old, hungarian Manly, let named Laszlo toss jumped over an altar railing and attacked the piazza. He was able to hit the statue twelve times with a hammer, marries left arm in hand were damaged. The arm was completely severed off in her
knows was broken into three parts. Her left I led head and neck were also damaged and when the attack was over, more than one hundred fragments had been knocked from. The statue path was subdued by tourists and security guards, and he was taken away
he yelled throughout the incident. I am Jesus Christ. Christ has risen from the dead. He went on to claim that God had told him to destroy, marries image because he as Laszlo Slash Christ is eternal. He could have no,
there. There was a great deal of debate about how to repair this
I too am in fact whether it should be repaired at all. There were plenty of art historians making the case that it should be left in its damage state, as sort of it. A historical record
the attack. Eventually, however, the decision was made to perform a thorough and careful restoration which would leave no obvious visual clears as to what has happened over the course of five months. Fragments in pieces were identified in catalogued once that process was complete, a lab was set up
around the statue, so it could be worked on without removing it from the chapel and a common
vision of an invisible glue and marble powder was used as a fix it if and resource painstakingly placed each broken peace back into position, and they didn't even actually have every
missing piece which they knew based on their months of inventory, work that they had done prior to re assembly. So angry, but this is the part read like others- did get sat at the end of recovery,
One missing piece did arrive in an anonymous parcel from the United States. A visiting tourist who had witnessed the attack took one of the pieces home, but then mailed it back over feeling guilt over the superstitious souvenir. Many other tourists took charge as well, which were never never returned, and I would like to say what is wrong with you yeah I, as I was thinking about it, riding up these notes. I was just thinking about how many tiny pieces of the piazza are spread
no telling where throughout the globe, what you just did it and oddly shocking thought to me. Fortunately, a mould of the piazza had also been made before this attack happened and using that,
remaining missing pieces were recruited and replace. So after ten months of research and restoration surrender, it took five months just to do the cataloguing and then roughly another five to do the the actual re assembly, the sculpture than it made me. Glandular famous, was back on display for public doings, though, once again as it had been at the world's fair, it was placed behind protective bulletproof glass and it still is, as for Laszlo TOP his various patchy and sad at the time of the attack, he was a former geologist unemployed. At the time of the incident and deep
so he mentally unstable. He claimed, as he shouted during the assault on the piazza, too big Jesus Christ and sometimes Michelangelo, and I want to clarify that my what is wrong with you is about non disturbed people who took pieces of a century old piece of our home with them
yeah. That was what I presume do. I wanted to make sure, because I know somebody's gonna write us than email about it, and now the tourists who took pieces of it home,
Yeah yeah yeah yeah, I like I said I just imagine how many tiny pieces are spread throughout the world and they should be back with the statute. But yeah tops story is
continues to be sad in the years. Prior to this violent outburst, he had moved from Hungary.
To Australia, although he did not speak in English. His degree as a geologist was not recognised in Australia, and so he ended up having to work factory jobs. He did in fact tried a union eyes, some of them
jobs by any worked on that until he was in a violent fight in nineteen sixty seven and in that fight he fractured his skull
for some time after that injury and then he would turn up in familiar spots, though only briefly before venturing to ITALY and nineteen. Seventy two and it sounds like the people that knew him found
to be very different when he he reappeared than he had been prior to that injury, no criminal charges were ever filed against him. He was and sets instead sent to us like the Africans petition for two years when he was released and nineteen seventy five he was deported back to Australia. His story goes cold. After that, its inspired various creative works. There are certainly corners of the internet where tall tales of sightings and theories about his life after he left. Europe just abound, but it appears that
tough. All but vanished once he got back to Australia gear we just there is like no thread of what happened to him after that's troubling, on a variety of levels. So we don't know if he could still be alive if he you know, when I delete a completely different life if he lived the life of anonymity, we just him now
idea that it always seemed to me breeding about this, because I
member I mean I was born in the very early seventy. So I remember this was an event. There was talked about a lot in my family. My mother side of the faintly particularly, is very devout Roman Catholic And- and this was something that would come up in conversation often- and I remember lake- I always had questions about
Perpetrator ended, they never had answers, but now that I have done a little bit more research, it appears no one has answers and it always seem sort of cruel that when he got out of a mental institution he was deported, and there was no further
chair or concern about his treatments. But yes it we don't know
What we do know is that Michelangelo's landless is still currently on display in Saint Petersburg Basilica in Rome. I you can go visit it and if you can't go visit it in person like I said there is a pizza virtual tour that you can visit online and zoom in and see it fairly up. Close there's also been a number of just spectacular photographs taken of it over the year, so it is easy to to look at and examined and appreciate the incredible work for yourself. It's it's one of those
this- is of sculpture- that when you hear people talk about it, even people that are not religious speak about it in incredible, having just an incredible sense of a sort of other worldly experience, because it is so just indescribably, beautiful and sort of moving. So it's a piece. I love. It's gorgeous, loves tack, but a little bit art here and there a thank you so much for joining us today for this classic. If you have heard any kind of email address, there may be a facebook url during the course of the episode that might be obsolete. It might be doubly obsolete because we have changed our email address again. You can now reach us at history, podcast that I heart rate.
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