Terracotta statue model for Michelangelo`s `Pieta` sculpture

A terracotta statue of the Virgin Mary was the model for Michelangelo`s `Pieta` sculpture.

Last Updated: Dec 04, 2010, 09:06 AM IST

London: A recently discovered terracotta
statue of the Virgin Mary cradling Jesus after his crucifixion
was the model for Michelangelo`s renowned `Pieta` sculpture in
marble, unveiled at St Peter`s Basilica in the Vatican City, a
new book has claimed.

Michelangelo created the small, 30cm-high statue
500 years ago in order to convince a wealthy French cardinal
to commission him to produce the much larger work, which he
completed in 1499, according to `Veiled in Mystery` penned by
leading art historian Roy Doliner.

The model consists of three figures -- Christ, the
Virgin Mary and a small Cupid, whose head and wings are broken
off and missing. Cupids were pagan in origin, based on Greek
god of love Eros and also represented in Roman mythology.

"The only artist with the nerve, the colossal
chutzpah, to put a pagan figure in a statute that was destined
for the Vatican, was Michelangelo," Doliner was quoted by `The
Daily Telegraph` as saying.

There are other clues which point to it having been
made by Michelangelo. The exquisite detail of the piece, in
particular Christ`s face, chest and abdomen, correspond to
sketches which he is known to have drawn for other works.

The statue has been dated to a period in which
Michelangelo was little known and based in Florence. Italy`s
different city states had distinct measuring systems and
Michelangelo would have been familiar with Florentine braccio,
58 cm in length. The recently discovered model is 58.3cm long.

Doliner said that contemporary records showed that
Michelangelo always made his models one braccio long. He also
believes two later Renaissance artists, Annibale Carracci and
`Domenichino`, knew of the Michelangelo model and paid homage
to it in paintings they produced in the 1600s.

PTI