August 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is a close-up of Michelangelo’s sculpture of Mary holding Jesus as a baby as she receives a vision of his crucified body. Two crazy stories about this piece of artwork, and I’ll tell them in chronological order. Michelangelo sculpted this when he was very young (about twenty), and he was present in the crowd. What I didn’t realize is that Michelangelo was first and foremost a sculptor (a very bitter and angry sculptor) who despised painting and considered it an inferior form of art. His first professional job as a painter was in fact the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel (not a bad way to kick things off) but that’s neither here nor there. When this sculpture was revealed everyone present thought that it was stupid and wrong. They talked loudly about how Mary was far too big and young looking, and Jesus’ body should not have been able to fit in her lap at the time of the crucifixion (Michelangelo was less than pleased). After a little while, however, the people realized that it wasn’t a sculpture of the crucifixion, it was a sculpture of Mary’s vision of the crucifixion while she held Jesus as a baby (this realization instantly turned opinion of the work from stupid to awesome). Then, when Michelangelo came forward to claim the work as his, everybody laughed and said “Silly Michelangelo, you’re just a boy. You didn’t make this” (not what Michelangelo wanted to hear). He then yelled at them, jumped up on the statue an inscription into Mary’s sash (you can see it here) which proclaimed his name and the fact that he had sculpted this statue (why the crowd stood there and watched as he did this makes no sense to me. It’s not like you can chisel a sentence in a few seconds. There was definitely time to grab him). The second story happened more recently. About 15 years ago a man from Australia came to the Vatican, walked up to the Statue and yelled “You’re not my mother” (this man was crazy). He proceeded to jump on the sculpture and hit it with a hammer, knocking off pieces of the face and one of the arms I think. Since then, the work has been restored, but it is now kept behind bullet proof glass in St. Peter’s Basilica. This is a picture of a replica that stands where the original used to at the entrance to the Vatican Museum. Boom. Story time over.


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