museum pieta

text ornament


The creation of the original twelve bronze castings of Michelangelo's Madonna Della Pieta conveys true art appreciation as they have been touched with perfection from the original masterpiece. Copies are just copies, but knowing the bronze castings were made from the original mold made from the masterpiece creates an ambiance of presence unlike any copy.

In 1932 the Vatican commissioned the Marinelli Foundry to make precise molds of its great art objects including the marble Pieta placed in St. Peter's Basilica. As World War II started to unfold and not knowing Mussolini's true ambition, the Foundry and others became concerned about the Nazi's proclivity to plunder the world's great art. Since Italy formed an alliance with Germany, the Vatican seemed to be safe from the plundering; but, the molds were not. The Foundry and others went to great lengths to make sure the molds were not discovered and kept them safely hidden until after the war.

In 1972, a crazed Hungarian, jumped the railing in St. Peter's Basilica and tragically dealt 12 hammer blows to Michelangelo's marble Pieta - the masterpiece. There was substantial damage to Madonna's nose and head leaving about 100 fragments to piece together. Also, her left arm was broken off with her fingers breaking when they hit the floor. Some tourists picked up some of the fragments and left with them making restoration a tedious and inaccurate process. Also, some of the restoration marble was taken from the back of the sculpture making the masterpiece flawed. A true tragedy. It took ten months before the Pieta was put back on display behind bullet proof glass and other barriers.

It is important to note that the precise mold made in 1932, and surviving German occupation, is a precise mold of the original before it was damaged and restored in 1972. This precise mold was used to create only twelve castings which are more accurate in representing the hand and touch of Michelangelo in creating his masterpiece than perhaps the restored marble Pieta now in St. Peter's Basilca.

With this is mind, please view the following YouTube video for one of the twelve Pietas on display at Carlos Slim's (notably one of the richest men in the world) museum in Mexico city. The museum's director gives a good description at about 2:58 minutes into the video, conveying his feelings about its presence. It is also interesting to view the first part of this video as it explains that the Pieta is one of the director's three most revered art objects at the Museum – having 3,400 art objects at the Museum says a lot about its ambiance. Not enough about maybe approaching priceless, how about one of the few at the top of the list of Carlos Slim's 64,000 pieces of art?