One of Michelangelo’s most revered works, La Pieta’ ( Translation: The Pity) was commissioned in the year 1499 by the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres. Initially, the work of art was to adorn the funeral monument for the cardinal, but was later moved to its current location within St. Peter’s basilica. The sculpture displays the Virgin Mary cradling the body of her son, Jesus, in the moments after his removal from the cross on which he died. The work is also known as being the only piece of art that Michelangelo ever signed.

The work took around two years to complete and was praised from the beginning. The reason that it garnered so much positive attention was due to the fact that it differed greatly from other similar sculpted scenes. One of the major differences can be seen in the facial expression and structure of the Virgin Mary. In other interpretations of the scene, the Virgin Mary is portrayed as being old, heartbroken and distraught. However, Michelangelo’s work portrays Mother Mary as young and serene. The reason for her youthful portrayal is pure speculation by scholars. One explanation is that her physical body was being protected and preserved by God, since she was hand picked to be the mother to the son of God. Yet, another more interesting interpretation is that Michelangelo wanted the work to have two dimensions.

While the scene presents the viewer an older Jesus’ lifeless body being held up in his mother’s lap, the younger Mary can be said to depict a more common scene of mother and child. Adding to this interpretation, some also feel that it is both a snapshot of Jesus’ entire life, from youth to death, wrapped into one sculpture. But, it is important to note that all art is subjective, and the true answer lies within us. One thing is undeniable though, and that is the sheer power and emotion the scene seems to evoke from every angle, every time.