Unknown maker, Figure of Christ from Michelangelo's 'Pieta'

Figure of Christ from Michelangelo's 'Pieta', early 19th century

After Unknown maker

RA Collection: Art

This is a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s Pietà in the church of St Peter’s, Rome. The sculpture shows the Virgin holding the dead Christ in her arms, but only the figure of Christ was cast in this case. (Part, but not all, of the Virgin’s cloak has been cast.) This means, amongst other things, that the pyramid-like shape of the whole work is not visible.

The work was commissioned by a Frenchman, Cardinal Jean Villier de la Groliae, and presented Michelangelo with his first commission for a major religious sculpture, and took an entirely new approach—no large marble Pietà was carved anywhere in Italy in the 15th century, and even painted depictions of the subject in Florenceat this time had little in common with Michelangelo's rendering. Michelangelo began work on the sculpture in 1498, and it is generally assumed to have been completed in either 1499 or 1500.

Early writers on the work, such as Giorgio Vasari, stressed the naturalism of the work, which has long been considered one of the masterpieces of Western art. From the beginnings of the Royal Academy, Michelangelo was established as one of the crucial models for artists to study by Sir Joshua Reynolds in his Discourses.

Further reading

John Pope-Hennessy, Italian High Renaissance and Baroque Sculpture, 3 vols (London: Phaidon, 1963)

Object details

Figure of Christ from Michelangelo's 'Pieta'
Cast made by
early 19th century
Object type
Sculpture Cast
Plaster cast

1260 mm x 1500 mm x 830 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Richard Cook RA 1828
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