After a lengthy and complicated restoration, begin in 2019, Michelangelo's last “Pietà”, known as the “Bandini Pietà” after its first owner, Archbishop Francesco Bandini, is now on show again in the Museum of the Opera of the Duomo in Florence.

According to Vasari, writer of the famous “Lives” of the Renaissance artists, Michelangelo was so dissatisfied with the quality of the marble he was using that he tried to destroy the sculpture. Fortunately, Bandini rescued it and commissioned an artist to tidy it up. It is now considered one of the jewels of the Opera del Duomo collection.

The lengthy and delicate restoration, financed by the Friends of Florence Foundation, revealed that it was not carved in Michelangelo's preferred material, which was the high quality marble of Carrara, but that the enormous 3-ton block had come from the Medici quarries at Seravezza near Lucca. Michelangelo, in fact, had objected that the marble was too hard and gave off sparks when he applied his chisel. Restorers found, in fact, that the stone contained pyrite.

The Pietà, which the artist originally intended to grace his own tomb, is an unusual triangular composition, with a hooded Nicodemus leaning protectively over the body of the dead Christ, which is supported by the Virgin Mary and – unusually – by Mary Magdalene. Michelangelo was into his seventies when he was working on the sculpture and the suffering face of Nicodemus is believed to be his self-portrait.


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