This has always been one of my favorite works of art. Sculpted by Michelangelo in 1498 when he was only 23, this work reflects Michelangelo’s deep love of beauty. In his younger days, Michelangelo was completely taken up with the Renaissance ideals of beauty. I wrote about this in a post a few years ago.
Michelangelo was a great religious artist. He was a man of deep spirituality. His art can be truly meditative and inspiring. This is the beauty of art, that it expresses so well the spiritual side of life, putting into form things are the ultimately formless, helping us to see the unseen, to even feel what cannot be seen. Good art can lead us to God. This is why I believe art is ultimately a gift from God, a great gift. No other creature on the face of the earth creates art; only man.
The Pieta is a magnificent work. What I find so remarkable about this creation is how supple the flesh seems, how soft and lifelike, even though this is a piece of marble. Nothing like this had been seen before Michelangelo created the Pieta. It is a reflection of the High Renaissance, of the belief common at the time that truth and beauty were intimately linked, and that we can reach God through the pursuit of beauty. Despite the tragedy of the event, the dead body of Christ in his mother’s arms, there is a wonderful calm and harmonious peace represented here, a calm and peace that speaks to the ultimate power of faith to calm our fears and dispel our doubts. These types of High Renaissance works only lasted for a while; later on in his life Michelangelo would renounce his youthful love of beauty and create works that were much more tortured and infused with suffering. I can understand those too.
But for today, in the early days of spring, beauty is something to be cherished and celebrated, especially the beauty of great religious art.