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Posts Tagged ‘Rondanini Pieta’

 

Michelangelo. (1475 – 1564)

His is a name iconic, one that defines the creative genius of the Renaissance. While David, the “Prisoners”, the glory of the Sistine Chapel and innumerable other works have come to define this man’s tactile artistic contributions to western culture, he was also a remarkable poet.

Michelangelo Aged

Michelangelo Etching, English, 1874

In the course of his eighty-nine year life, he composed over 300 sonnets and madrigals. The structure of his poetry was centered upon three ideals: the love of Christ, love of Florence and love of beauty. (See Sonnets of Michelangelo,Symonds, 1878, page xix.)

For decades there has been a great deal of discussion within academic circles about the homoerotic nature of Michelangelo’s writing.

Some background:

In 1623, the artist’s grandnephew, Michelangelo the Younger, published the first edition of the sonnets. Much of the controversy that swirls around that earlier edition is based upon changes discovered in the course of John Addington Symond’s 1878 translations: the “Younger” changed the gender of the maestro’s passions from male to female. Times being what they were in the early 17th century, those changes can perhaps be more clearly understood.

In his introduction to the 1878 rhymed translation of the sonnets, Symonds addresses those changes and the perspective of the artist:

“Nothing is more clear than that Michael Angelo (sic) worshiped Beauty in the Platonic spirit, passing beyond its personal and specific manifestations to the universal and impersonal. This thought is repeated over and over again in his poetry; and if we bear in mind that he habitually regarded the loveliness of man or woman as a sign and symbol of eternal and immutable beauty, we shall feel it of less importance to discover who it was that prompted him to this or that poetic utterance.” (See Symonds, Introduction, Page xviii).

The earlier sonnets address topics as diverse as Dante, life, love, religion, art, Pope Julius II, the people of Prato and other matters of interest. The variety of his observations are uniquely intriguing, particularly as insights into other contemporary artists or those who commissioned Buonarotti’s work.

Those observations changed over time.

Nicodemus Pieta

Nicodemus Pieta, Michelangelo, 1547 – 1555

In the latter years of his life, Michelangelo’s words turn introspective. He reflects on the span of his life and the journey that brought him to older age. In deference to Michelangelo’s Nicodemus Pieta in the Museum of the Works of the Duomo in Florence, this sonnet (below) is printed in gold on the walls which face the Pieta in the newly restored museum.
On the Brink of Death
To Giorgio Vasari
Sonnet LXV

The course of my life has brought me now
Through a stormy sea, in a frail ship,
To the common port where, landing
We account for every deed, wretched or holy.

So that finally I see
How wrong the fond illusion was
That made art my idol and my King,
Leading me to want what harmed me.

My amorous fancies, once foolish and happy
What sense have they now that I approach two deaths
The first of which I know is sure, the second threatening.

Let neither painting nor carving any longer calm
My soul turned to that divine Love
Who to embrace us opened His arms upon the cross.

 

Though he worked on one other pieta in his later years, the Rondanini Pieta in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, the Nicodemus Pieta is a physical representation of Michelangelo’s melancholy musings on life and death.
When you visit the Museum of the Works of the Duomo in Florence, please take some time to sit in the chamber reserved solely for the display of the Nicodemus Pieta, and give thought to yet another surprising facet of Michelangelo’s gifts.
Details:
Symond’s rhymed translation, in full, can be read at this link, The Sonnets of Michel Angelo Buonarotti

Address: Piazza del Duomo, 9, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Hours: 9:00AM – 7:30PM  Daily

Entrance: Euro 15.00 pp (Adult)

Pre Purchase tickets on line: Cumulative Entrance Ticket (Duomo, Museum, Campanile, Baptistery, Crypt and Dome)

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Rondanini Pieta1564

Rondanini Pieta
1564

The burdens of life and the support of a son for his suffering mother fuse  in Michelangelo’s final sculpture, the Rondanini Pieta.

It is believed that Buonarotti began work on this final pieta in the mid-1550’s, not long after he first brought chisel to stone on what is known as the Bandini Pieta. While that work resides in Michelangelo’s city of Florence (in the Museo del Opera del Duomo), the Rondanini occupies a special space in Milan’s Castello Sforzesco. The Pieta is named after the Palazzo Rondanini in Rome, where the sculpture stood for many years.

In the Rondanini, the master portrays in a most intimate and telling way, acceptance of his mortality and the unique bond between mother and son. The master lost his mother when he was but six years old. That early loss significantly affected his later work, with the portrayal of a mother who has lost her son particularly moving in this final sculpture.

When viewed from the side, the position of the two figures seems to show Christ supporting this mother. Perhaps it was Michelangelo’s intent to portray the son’s understanding of his mother’s suffering upon his death: he wished to support his mother in her grief.

Rondanini Pieta Detail

Rondanini Pieta Detail

It is, from any angle, a stunning and moving final work by a very long lived Tuscan master.

The work of Buonarotti, particularly this final pieta, seem to me an influence on the work of Alberto Giacometti, a Swiss sculptor. He was born in 1901 into a family whose father was a famous post-impressionist painter. Alberto’s talents in art were evidenced at an early age and, after studying in Paris with a student of Auguste Rodin, he established himself as a power in the modernist movement.

When I first viewed the The Rondanini Pieta, I was reminded of Giacometti’s works in bronze, particularly those of female figures. Alberto said that the elongated figures of women portrayed, in his words, “…the way I look at a woman.”

The elongated limbs, the poise of the woman (in this case, below) seem to have found inspiration in Michelangelo’s last pieta: stretched arms, a certain sadness, a nearly sensual texture and a common peace in both the Rondanini and Giacometti’s work.

The beauty of Michelangelo’s work underscores the impact his sculpture has had on the world of art. Whether or not Giacometti ever even saw the Rondanini in person, and whether he was in any way influenced by Michelangelo’s work, will remain a mystery. Giacometti’s stunning interpretation of the human figure, I believe, echoes very strongly the style and genius of Buonarotti’s final pieta.

Giacometti Bronze

Giacometti Bronze

IF YOU GO:

Castle Grounds Open Hours

Monday through Sunday

7.00AM – 6:00PM (Normal Schedule)

7.00AM – 7.00PM (Festival Days

Entrance to the Castle grounds is free, Museums required paid admission

Castello Information: Tel. 39.02.88.46.3700

Castello Museums:

Entrance Ticket: Euro 3.00 per person

Castello Museum Hours

Tuesday through Sunday (Closed Monday)

9.00AM – 5:30AM (Ticket office closes at 5:00PM)

Ticket Office Information: Tel. +39.02.88.46.3703

Closed on the following holidays: 25 December, 1 January, 1 May, Mondays and Easter.

From across Milan, you can reach the Castello using the following subway, bus and tram lines:

Subway:

MM1 (Cadorna and Cairoli Stations)

MM2 (Cadorna and Lanza Stations)

Bus Lines: 18, 37, 50, 58, 61 and 94

Tram Lines: 1, 2, 4, 12, 14, and 19

For works by Giacometti, visit the Kunsthaus Zurich – should your travels take you north out of Italy:

Address:

Kunsthaus Zürich
Heimplatz 1
CH–8001 Zurich

Sat/Sun/Tues 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Wed–Fri 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Mon 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (Chagall exhibition only)

Groups and school classes by prior appointment only
Tel. +41 (0)44 253 84 84

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