Michelangelo, Pietà, 1498-1499, marble, 68.5

Just a Second: Pietà

Pietà (noun)

A representation of a sorrowful Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus, usually found in sculpture.  The most famous example was sculpted by Michelangelo in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome for the French cardinal Jean de Billheres.  The Pietà was an unusual subject in Italy at the time, having originated in Germany and becoming popular only in northern and central Europe.

The moment represented in the Pietà is not described in the scriptures, rather it is a subject that was invented for devotional purposes and so it appears only in art.