Rondanini Pieta by Michelangelo

Named for the Roman palace where it long stood, the Rondanini Pietà is the sculpture on which Michelangelo was working only six days prior to his death on February 18, 1564.

Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta
Michelangelo did not have a chance to finish the
Rondanini Pietà (6 feet 3-5/8 inches tall), which now
resides in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.

At nearly eighty-nine years of age, Michelangelo had become increasingly preoccupied with his own mortality, and it is appropriate that the Rondanini Pietà, haunting and shattered, would wring from him his last artistic breath. Imagine Michelangelo with trembling hands, now only a few days from death, struggling to summarize his lifelong spiritual journey in the achingly expressive distortion of this last sculpture.

Detail of Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta
Detail of Michelangelo's Rondanini Pietà.

When Michelangelo began this final pietà in 1556, he chose to work from a piece he had begun but abandoned nearly ten years earlier. In the early stages of the Rondanini Pietà, Mary was holding up the slender Christ with her outstretched arms as if offering his spirit, but with time and through nearly three different stages, Christ sank down, now emerging from Mary's breast and exaggerated in his slender form. Finally, Michelangelo drew the heads of the two figures closer and closer together, dissolving the barrier between mother and son.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren Mitchell Ruehring is a freelance writer who has contributed promotional commentary for the works of many artists, including Erté and Thomas McKnight. She has also contributed to publications such as Kerry Hallam: Artistic Visions and Liudmila Kondakova: World of Enchantment. In addition, she has received recognition from the National Society of Arts and Letters.