The Marble Arm – Pieta Bandini, Florence

Is this arm the greatest sculpture that I have seen?  I’m not even sure what the question means.  I speak of the arm of the depositioned Christ-figure in the Bandini Pieta by Michelangelo.  It was an early dusk when I wandered into the Duomo, the main cathedral in Florence.  I found myself amongst a tourist group, with their guide holding forth on Michelangelo’s Pieta.  Uninvited, I listened.

Bandini Pieta., Florence (1550)

He spoke of the dramatics concerning this group of figures in the last years of Michelangelo’s life.  Perhaps, for reasons of his own, Michelangelo had taken the group to pieces.  He was long past seventy at this stage.  It is reported that, despite his dissatisfaction with his benefactor, that he loved what he had done and sensing that he was not far from death, said, Why must I die now, when I have learnt to use the chisel? At a later stage, perhaps after his death, the group was brought together again, using metal links.

This group, one sees, is an irregular collection:  the figure supporting Christ on the right is out of proportion, clearly not Michelangelo’s work.  The remaining figures do not have the touch of the master.

But it is the arm of the deceased Christ that moves me, that arm dangling in death, in contrast with the flowing lines of the body.

       The marble arm

The arm hangs a little skew.  Each anatomical detail is there, lovingly brought from the marble.  For me, this figure portrays death more vividly than the famed Pieta in the Basilica at Rome.  The Pieta in St Peters is an image of sadness and peacefulness.  Both figures are attractive, almost untouched by suffering.  But the arm of the Florence Pieta is drained of life, broken by pain, tragically defeated.

Including himself in the Deposition scene

What strikes me too, is that the figure above Christ.  It is generally considered to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo.  To include himself in this deposition scene, probably because, originally, this group had been intended for his own grave, is a statement of intimacy that is beyond words.

            Da Volterra portrait of Michelangelo

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017

 

Source

Wikipedia Bandini Piëta

 

Images

Marble group –  pinterest

The arm –  employees.oneonta.edu

Self-portrait –  florencewebguide.com

Da Volterra portrait of Michelangelo – travelsacrossitaly.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOT OF ST PETER

St Peter Enthroned, Basilica, Rome

It is years since I saw St Peter’s foot in the Basilica of Rome.  The many things I saw have become a little vague in my memory, but this one remains graphic.

For a South African the baroque cathedrals of Europe may be a little overwhelming, probably because most of us have grown up with Protestant minimalism.  What has taken place with the bronze statue of St Peter Enthroned is perhaps an example of what we would find strange.

They speculate that this iconic statue is around seven hundred years old, fashioned by Arnolfo di Cambio.  It becomes part of any pilgrimage and pilgrims touch the right foot, the one a little off the pediment.  In these seven centuries the foot has been worn smooth.  The shape of the left foot shows some smoothing but not as much.  It is estimated that with the durability of bronze that only millions upon millions of hands would have had that effect.

      Pilgrim touches the foot

It left me emotional to see the pilgrims touching that foot. It felt a bit like humanity reaching again and again for something to reassure them, for something to believe in.  And the need wears what it touches smooth.  The passion does not relent.  In the Basilica of Rome, with the statue of St Peter, the worn bronze foot leaves us a profound image of that.

                   Longing that wears smooth

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017

 

Source

St Peters Basilica Info

 

Images

St Peters Basilica

 

 

 

 

 

 

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