Pieta (meaning pity or compassion) is a common subject in Christian art representing sorrowful Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus Christ. Pieta is most commonly found in sculptures rather than paintings, although combined forms also exist. The origin of Pieta dates back to 1300 when the Germans first developed it. Later around 1400, Pieta reached Italy and became very popular in Central Europe. Although Pieta is most often showed as Virgin Mary holding Jesus, there are also other compositions including God the Father holding Jesus. The earliest and best known Pieta is the Pieta located in the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City and other three related Pieta’s are the Deposition Pieta, the Rodanini Pieta and Palestrina Pieta.
Pieta in St.Peter’s Basilica:
Since the fourteenth century, one of the most popular themes in Northern European art is the lamentation of Christ, depicting the body of Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary, after the Crucifixion. This Pieta is the masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance sculptor, Michelangelo. The sculpture of Virgin Mary holding lifeless body of Jesus on her lap is 68.5 in × 76.8 in in dimension and is located in the St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. This statue has depicted the human suffering in a Spiritual and Christian view. Virgin Mary’s face springs up with sweetness, serenity and majestic acceptance of the huge sorrow as she holds Jesus’ lifeless body on her lap. The statue clearly depicts the Virgin’s faith in Redeemer as she believes Jesus is about to resuscitate from the tranquil sleep. This statue spreads a spiritual feel that sufferings of life and its pain can be mitigated and rose of resurrection can be blossomed. Being one of the most famous religious sculptures, the statue is well known for its physical perfection and beauty. It is remarkable to believe that this statue was carved by Michelangelo when he was just 24 years old. This statue representing the intimacy and majesty of the single moment has brought tears in many Pilgrims leaving a lasting impression. The outstretched left hand of Mary inviting us to share with her, the huge grief caused by the death of her son, gives a highly supernatural feeling.
Michelangelo was just 24 years old when he was commissioned to create a life size sculpture of Virgin Mary holding her son in her arms by the Cardinal Jean Bilheres de Lagraulas, the French King’s envoy to the pope, on august 27 1498. Michelangelo had only finished two sculptures, a lost Cupid-Apollo and a Baccus for the banker Jacopo Galli, when he was commissioned to make the Pieta. Michelangelo took less than two years to carve the sculpture from a single slab of marble. He had a different way of representing Mary, he decided to depict a youthful, serene and celestial Virgin unlike other artists who went for an older and broken hearted Mary. When he was questioned on the idea of his young Mary, he answered “Women who are pure in soul and body never grow old.” When the sculpture was unveiled in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500, Michelangelo stood boldly to watch people admiring his work but was furious to hear people’s conversation accrediting the work to other artists of his time. This made him to carve his name “MICHAEL. ANGELUS. BONAROTUS. FLORENT. FACIEBAT” across the sash on Virgin Mary. Later he regretted and has never signed any of his works.
Cardinal had planned to use the Pieta for his tomb. He wrote to the officials of the tiny Republic-state of Lucca, to the north of Rome in Tuscany about the commission that Michelangelo and the cardinal had agreed. He also requested them to help Michelangelo find his marble to make the sculpture. Michelangelo stayed in Carrara, one of the marble quarries of Lucca to find his largest and finest slab of marble to work on. But sadly Cardinal BIlheres had died when the statue was installed in 1500.
The Deposition Pieta:
The Deposition Pieta is a marble sculpture made during 1547-1553 by Michelangelo, the Italian renaissance sculptor. The Deposition Pieta is also known as Florence Pieta, Pieta del Duomo and Lamentation over the dead Christ. The Deposition Pieta is located in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence and is 89 inches in dimension. The deposition Pieta portrays the incident, lowering of Jesus Christ into the tomb that happened just after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The dead but muscular body of Jesus is accompanied by three figures with intense sorrow and controlled grief- the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Nicodemus (who removed nails from Christ feet on the cross). According to Vasari( Italian artist), Michelangelo made the Florence Pieta to decorate his tomb in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. After eight years of tireless work, Michelangelo abandoned the sculpture after discovering the impurity in the marble and gave it to his servant Antonio. Antonio sold it and the new owner gave the sculpture to Tiberio Calcagni to reconstruct it. It is to be noted that the face of Nicodemus under the hood is considered to be a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself.
This marble sculpture was produced by Michelangelo in Rome around 1500 and it is housed in the Academy of fine arts, Florence, Italy and is 100 inches in dimension. The work of Palestrina Pieta was formerly attributed to Michelangelo but later it was known that most of the work was completed by some other artist. The sculpture depicts three figures of which one is deceased Jesus Christ. The material in which the Pieta was built was believed to be a stone of Palestrina close to Rome but later after the restoration works it was found that the sculpture was carved from Carrara marble.
The Rondanini Pieta:
The Rondanini Pieta, the marble sculpture is believed to be the last work of Michelangelo. Michelangelo started the work around 1550’s and carried on till the end of his life in 1564. The Rodanini Pieta is located in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan and it is 77 inches in dimension. The work is an intricate blending of two bodies where Virgin Mary mourns over the death of her son Jesus Christ. The sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary bending towards the delineated form of Jesus Christ who is slipping out of the confines of the Carrara marble. Like he created the Deposition of Christ for his own tomb, Michelangelo created this Pieta during a period when his mortality was growing. The sculpture is crafted roughly and it is well seen by the rough and smooth surfaces, deep groves, forceful slashes, physical fissures, and deep-set contours and as well as the appearance of chisel on the surface of the stone. In some angles it looks like Jesus is holding Mary with his back instead of Mary cradling Jesus. It is believed that Michelangelo has crafted the sculpture in this way to represent Jesus’s spirit in comforting Mary in her loss.
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THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA:
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a colossal stone statue situated on the Giza Plateau near Cairo, Egypt. The Sphinx has the facial features of a man and the body of a recumbent lion. It is theoldest artistic sculpture known to history, and is the largest monolith in the world.
LOCATION OF THE GREAT SPHINX OF GIZA:
The Great Sphinx of Giza is located in the Giza plateau, bordering the Sahara Desert, on the west bank of the Nile River, near modern-day Cairo. There is a mysterious passage which runs through the Great Sphinx and connects it with the Second Pyramid which was built by the Pharaoh Khafra and it is located hundred feet west of the Great Sphinx.
ORIGIN OF THE NAME:
Arabs call the Great Sphinx as Abul-hol which means the “Father of Terror”. The Greek word Sphinx is derived from the Egyptian word Shesep-Ankh which means “Living Image”. In antiquity the name Sphinx was given to a creature with the body of lion and head of woman. The three types of Egyptian Sphinx are
AndroSphinx – The Sphinx with the body of lion and head of a man.
CrioSphinx – The Sphinx with the body of a lion and a head of a ram
HieracoSphinx – The Sphinx with the body of a lion and a head of a hawk
The history of the Great Sphinx of Giza dates back to ages and it is largely hidden. It is believed that the Great Sphinx of Giza was built by the Fourth King of Fourth Dynasty, Pharaoh Khafra around 2530 BC. The Pharaoh Khafra is the builder and occupant of the second Giza pyramid. The Great Sphinx of Giza is located to the Northeast of Chephren’s valley temple. The place of Great Sphinx of Giza was once quarry and it is believed that the Chephren’s workers shaped the stone in to a statue with the body of a lion and head of human. The Pharaoh Khafra’s face resembles in the face of Great Sphinx. The Sphinx is built facing the rising sun with a temple to the front and it is believed the temple was built by the Kings of the Fifth Dynasty. The meaning of Sphinx is strangler and it was first given by Greeks to a creature with head of a woman, body of a lion and wings of bird. The Sphinx in Egypt appears in the form of Sun God. The Egyptian Sphinx is generally the head of a King wearing his head dresses and body of a lion.
The Egyptian Sphinx was also associated with God Amun. It is believed the Sphinx was half- buried by sand for most of the time, it was only after 1925 the evacuation of the statue was done. The face in the Sphinx of Giza was believed to be guardian face protecting the tomb of the Khafra from evil spirits. The original date of construction and by whom it was constructed is still questionable. Even the name Great Sphinx of Giza was believed to be given only after 2000 years of construction and the original name is still a mystery. Around 1425-1417 BC King Thutmose IV (1425 – 1417 BC) placed a Stela between the front paws of the figure. The story goes here, when Thutmose IV was a prince, he went for hunting and fell asleep in the shades of the Sphinx and in his dream Sphinx told him to clear away the sand because it was choking the Sphinx. The Sphinx promised to reward Thutmose IV with Kingship if the sand was cleared. Thutmose carried out this request and the Sphinx held up his end of the deal.
CONSTRUCTION AND RESTORATION:
The Sphinx is built of sand stone and the Sphinx would have vanished long time ago if the statue was not buried for so long. The Sphinx is huge, the body is 200 feet (60m) in length and 65 feet (20m) tall. The face of the Sphinx is 13 feet (4m) wide and its eyes are 6 feet (2m) high.
Part of the Sphinx’s nose, beard and uraeus (sacred cobra) are now missing because of erosion. Attempts have been made to restore the Sphinx but in this case restoration has caused more harm than good. During the 1980′s, the Sphinx was carefully renovated with the addition of 2000 limestone blocks to the body and chemicals were injected carefully. Unfortunately this treatment didn’t work for Sphinx and it flaked away along with the original rocks. Later workers who were untrained in restoration worked on repair for six months and in 1988 the left shoulder crumbled and blocks fell off. At present the restoration works are in control of the Supreme Council of Antiquities’ archaeologists. They are concentrating on draining away subsoil seepage which is damaging the rock. They are also repairing the damaged shoulder with smaller blocks and
staying with the original size.
There are many mysteries surrounding the great Sphinx than the mysteries of pyramids. Of all the mysteries, the most important one is erosion. The most obvious reason for erosion would be desert winds. But to surprise after the research of geologist Robert Schoch and Egyptologist John Anthony in 1990, it was concluded that it had been weathered by rainfall and not by wind or sand. The impressions on the eroded stones of Sphinx are vertical unlike the impressions on the surrounding pyramids which are horizontal. Even in 1930’s when Egyptologist R.A.Schwaller de Lubicz visited Giza he stated that the Sphinx had been weathered by water and not by wind. But to the contrary this water was not from rainfall, he suggested that the Sphinx had been
weathered by seawater. We also know that Sahara desert was once covered with grass and turned to desert between 10000 and 5000 B.C during a long period of torrential rainfall.
It is believed that the Sphinx built around 2500 B.C but Schwaller suggests that the Sphinx is far older than this date. When the beginning of Egyptian civilization is about 3000 B.C, is that possible to develop sophisticated science, mathematics and building skills in a mere 500 years?
Schwaller proposed that Egyptian knowledge was not a new development, but a legacy from a far older civilization which is possibly Plato’s Lost City of Atlantis.
The mystery surrounding the head of the Great Sphinx of Giza relates to the disproportional size of the monument, many believe that the original head was that of the lion. The eyes look far with intense and deep thought and mouth swears a smile. To reveal the secrets behind the mystery looks, Egyptian government has refused to provide permission to evacuate and explore the chambers beneath.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM CENTER OF CAIRO:
The easy way to reach the Great Sphinx and pyramids is to get a taxi from center of Cairo. There are also mini and micro buses operating, they also make frequent trips. You can also board the air conditioned bus which departs from Midan Tahrir. And after you reach there, getting around the pyramids and Great Sphinx is really easy. You can walk, take horse and buggy or even ride on camel.
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INTRODUCTION ON STATUE OF DAVID:
In the early renaissance art, David the biblical hero was the main theme of interest. David, who was destined to be the second king of Israel, destroyed the Philistine giant Goliath with stone and a sling in his young age. Four different artists Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Bernini made four different statues of David. Each sculpture is so unique and it drastically differs from one another. The statues were made from different construction materials and they also differed in the dressing codes and body postures. All the four statues were founded in Italy and today they serve as tourist attractions in Italy.
STATUE OF DAVID BY DONATELLO:
Donatello, the Florentine artist born in 1386 is famous for his sculptural works in Italy.
He was one of the earliest artists of renaissance period who invented shallow relief technique in artwork and used sculptural methods to bring dramatic images and shapes to life. Donatello was commissioned to make the statue of David by Operai of the Cathedral of Florence in 1408. The Operai was responsible to decorate the buttress of the cathedral’s tribune with statues of the twelve prophets. To carve his David, Donatello chose bronze marble as construction material and tools including flat, tooth and pointed chisels. Donatello wanted to depict his David as a boastful hero. Finally his David statue was depicted with a smile posed with Goliath’s head in his left foot. This David statue was depicted completely naked apart from laurel hat and boots and placed in the National Museum of Bargello in Florence. Donatello was the first artist and his David statue was the first unsupported standing statue at that period.
STATUE OF DAVID BY VERROCCHIO:
Andrea del Verrocchio was born in 1435 in Florence, Italy. He was one of the most important and imaginative sculptor of mid-fifteenth century. Verrocchio was commissioned to make the statue of David by the Medici family in around 1473 and 1475. He finally made the bronze statue of David, triumphantly posed over the head of Goliath and it became one of the famous works of his time.
Verrocchio’s adolescent David looks somewhat older and excludes pride and self-confidence rather than a dreamy gaze of disbelief. Verrocchio’s David is more open with bare sword and elbow sticking out, away from the central core. Verrocchio’s David gained controversies when it was exhibited. The Goliath’s head was placed between David’s feet in the statue’s permanent home National Museum of Bargello in Florence and when exhibited at the National Gallery of Art. Later on, another school of art historians suggested that Verrocchio intended to place the Goliath’s head to David’s right leg and this placement was temporarily arranged at the National Gallery of Art.
STATUE OF DAVID BY MICHELANGELO:
Off all the statues of David, Michelangelo’s David statue is the most famous one and it attracts tourists from all over the world. The Statue of David by Michelangelo is placed in the Accademia Galleria in the San Marco District of Florence Italy. The statue is completely nude, 5.2 meter in height and it depicts the statue of the David who killed Goliath. The statue was sculpted in 1504 by Michelangelo when he was only 29 years old. There is also copy of this man in Palazzo della Signoria. Academia galleria known as Accademia del Disegno was founded in middle of sixteenth century and is the first academy of drawing in Europe. The credit of Academia galleria goes to Vasari, Bronzino and Ammannati. The gallery was originally located in Santissima Annunziata and later on moved to Via Ricasoli were it became wider and was christened the Accademia di Belle Arti.
The Arte Della Lana was responsible for the upkeep and the decoration of Cathedral in Florence and it commissioned Michelangelo to create David in 1501. Michelangelo was given a block of marble from the mountains of Carrara for carving David. The marble given to Michelangelo was the leftover which was previously used by many artists including Agostino di Duccio. In spite of the numerous veins that ran through the stone (which could easily fracture the stone), Michelangelo carved David statue and made it possible. Michelangelo has used 85% of the original marble stone to make his David statue. When the incredible statue of David was finished the commission that included Leonardo di Vinci, Botticelli and other great artists decided to place the Statue of David just outside the Palazzo della Signoria as a symbol of the city of Florence that symbolized the liberty of the city in the form of the sacred figure of David.
Later in 1873 the statue was moved to Academia galleria, where the statue was intended as a monumental work and as a testimony to the city’s Republican pride and also to protect the statue from time and weather.
Traditionally, David was depicted after his victory over Goliath. Verrocchio and Donatello depicted David, admiring the head of the victim by standing over Goliath’s severed head. Michelangelo had a different way of depicting David by breaking the traditional way of portraying David. Michelangelo didn’t want his David to stand on the giants head with sword in hand, but rather depicted David’s graceful and powerful body. He portrayed the youth as tense of gathering power before the battle. The slingshot that David carries is almost invisible and this emphasizes that the victory of David was because of cleverness and not just sheer force. Michelangelo has used his ingenious technique in his David statue which is lack of proportion in some parts including the hands (which is knotted and looks extremely beautiful), neck (neck is bigger than half the chest) and by this the virtues of the universal man are found. The physical strength and the intellectual reasoning of man is well depicted here in this statue.
STATUE OF DAVID BY BERNINI:
Bernini was born in 1598 in Rome, Italy. He is well known artist of renaissance period specialized in sculptural and architectural work. He is most famous for his work, Statue of David which is a life size marble sculpture. In 1623, Bernini was commissioned to decorate villa of his Patron Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Bernini wanted to come up with a dramatic and real biblical figure. Bernini depicted David throwing a stone at goliath and is placed in Galleria Borghese, Rome. He used marble as construction material and chisels as main tool and completed his work in seven months. The David’s twisted body with immense tension shows the strength of the young man to release the stone and his work was different compared with other statues which depicted David standing, self-contained, and insulated.
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Christ the redeemer:
Christ the Redeemer is one of the world’s renowned landmarks and also one of the world’s largest statues of Jesus Christ. Christ the Redeemer is situated on the Peak of Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Placed at an altitude of 700 meters (2300 ft) the monument is not only famous for its beauty and panoramic view, it is also well-known as a Christian symbolism. Standing with outstretched and welcoming arms over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, it attracts more than 300,000 tourists every year. This monument stands 130 feet (39.6 m) tall and its pedestal is 31 feet (9.5 m) tall. The statue weighs 635 tons. You can’t miss the 360 degree view of the entire city from the top of the Corcovado Mountain. You can see famous landmarks including the Jockey Club, the Maracana Stadium, and the Botanical Gardens and also three famous beaches Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon. The statue gained more than 100 million votes worldwide via internet and telephone in the contest run by New Open World Foundation and was named as one of the New Wonders of the World on July 7, 2007.
History of the Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In 1859, a Catholic Priest Vincentian Pedro Maria Boss was attracted by the beauty of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro and came up with an idea of constructing a religious monument on this rising peak. He wanted to build the monument in honor of Isabel I, the then Princess Imperial of Brazil. Princess Isabel was not much flattered with the proposal of monument and the idea was finally dropped. The Brazilian monarchy was overtaken by the birth of new Republic in 1889 and the separation of church and state was announced and thus the idea of constructing a monument went impossible.
Later in 1921, a new proposal arose for the construction of religious monument on Corcovado mountain and the Catholic Circle of Rio themselves gave voice to the proposal and started to collect funds for building up a privately-funded Christian monument. With public support and financial backing the design phase went ahead and various designs were proposed including a large cross and a statue of Christ holding a globe designed by Carlos Oswaldo but finally the image of Christ with his arms wide open designed by local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was decided for the monument. The work began in 1922 and it was completed nine years later in 1931. The statue was sculpted in France instead of Brazil by French sculptor Paul Landowski. The pieces of the statue were then transported from France to Brazil and taken to the Corcovado mountain top by train and assembled. Paul Landowski chose concrete and soapstone to protect the statue from weather and cracking. The total cost was $250,000 ($3,257,463 in 2012), and the statue was opened to the public on October 12, 1931.
Christ the redeemer being one of the biggest deco sculptures in the world, several reforms has been done on the monument to assure the quality of work. After the renewal in Sep 2002, motorized staircase and panoramic elevators have been added to ease the journey for elderly people. A chapel was built at the base of the Christ the Redeemer to celebrate the 75th anniversary in 2006 and was dedicated to the Patron Saint of Brazil. Weddings and baptisms takes place in this Chapel and it can hold 150 people. In Feb 2008 the statue was struck by lightning during a major electrical storm but the statue survived because of the strong insulating properties of soapstone.
How to get there from COSME velho train station:
The most comfortable way of transport to reach Christ the Redeemer is by train and the nearest train station is Cosme Velho Station. You can buy tickets here for your journey. If you don’t want to go by train you can choose taxi. Train journey is not only cheap compared with taxi, it also provides you the breathtaking views when you go via the Atlantic rainforest along the steep way. The journey time by train is 17 minutes and there is a train every 30 minutes.
After you reach the top of the Corcovado Mountain, be ready to climb up 220 steps to reach the foot of the Christ statue and to take a closer visit. Don’t worry if you can’t climb the steps, there are four escalators and three panoramic elevators available to reach the Christ statue.
My tips for your visit:
The ride to see the Christ the Redeemer itself is an amazing experience. Riding up the mountains through the Atlantic rainforest is a beautiful experience which can’t be explained in plain words. Don’t miss to enjoy the waterfalls on the mountain sides. The view from different parts of the mountain is also the one which can’t be missed like the top view.
If you are looking for something different you can try riding the bike up the mountain. If you want to take a bird’s eye view of the city try the parasailing after you see the statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Christ the Redeemer is one of the best sights that can’t be missed. Do not miss the view at night, the spotlights light up the statue and make it glow and gives an illusion that the statue is floating above the mountain. I promise it is not just enjoying the great view of the city; it is a blessed spiritual experience.
Interesting Facts about Christ the Redeemer:
- The statue is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and fifth large Christ statue in the world.
- The monument stands 130 feet (39.6 m) tall and its pedestal is 31 feet (9.5 m) tall. The statue weighs 635 tons.
- The construction was started in 1922 and it took nine years to finish it in 1931.
- The total cost of the monument was $250,000 ($3,257,463 in 2012).
- The image of Christ with his arms wide open designed by local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was decided for the monument after the design of Carlos Oswaldo of a large cross and a statue of Christ holding a globe was rejected. The left arm of the Christ points to the north and right to the south.
- The statue was sculpted in France instead of Brazil by French sculptor Paul Landowski and he chose concrete and soapstone to build the statue.
- The statue was opened to public on the day of Our Lady of Aparecida on 12 Oct 1931 by then president of Brazil, Getulio Vargas and cardinal Dom Sebastiao Leme.
- A chapel was built at the base of the Christ the Redeemer to celebrate the 75th anniversary in 2006 and was dedicated to the Patron Saint of Brazil.
- On July 7, 2007, Christ the Redeemer was honored as one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World.
- To reach the top, climb 220 steps or take one of the four escalators or one of the three panoramic elevators.