(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)


c. 1550
Marble, height 226 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

Michelangelo' last sculptures were two (or three if the Pietà Palestrina is his work) Pietàs. Some of them were probably planned to decorate his tomb. According to Vasari, the artist's wish was to be buried in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, at the feet of the Pietà on which he had worked between 1547 and 1553; this was before he smashed it in 1555, because one leg had broken off and because the block of marble was defective. This is the Pietà, which is now in Florence Cathedral Museum. After having broken the statue, he let his servant take the pieces. Later the servant sold them and the new owner had it reconstructed following Michelangelo's models, so that the work has been preserved.

Michelangelo, in this Pietà, did not portray any precise historical moment; instead he erected a personal admonishment to himself, "One does not think how much blood it costs." He had once written this line from the Divine Comedy on a drawing for a Pietà, and from the composition of this drawing he took this marble group. Nicodemus has taken the place of the Madonna and she, with Mary Magdalen now does what the angels did, supports the body. There is no longer only the mother, but three people are now surrounding the body, and Christ's deadness is expressed more effectively by the falling movement in which he is caught halfway. The figures are not isolated from the emaciated dead body: they are blended, in their fear, desperation and pain, into a single setting. The bodies are denied any independent power and there is nothing to point to a higher meaning of this suffering, such as redemption.