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The solace of unfinished art

Posted March. 22, 2023 07:58,   

Updated March. 22, 2023 07:58


It seems that art can sometimes be more profound in its incompleteness than in its completion. Take Michelangelo’s “La Pieta,” for example. When compared to the almost “Vatican Pieta,” it becomes even clearer.

When he was 24, Michelangelo received a commission from the church to create the “Vatican Pieta,” a true perfection. The image of Mary holding her dead son and mourning evokes a sense of ease, beauty, and sublimity.

However, the unfinished “Rondinini Pieta,” which he worked on from the age of 77 until his death at 89, is quite different; there is no sense of ease or elegance. It also seems to lack balance or stability. Although Mary is holding her dead son from behind, she gives the impression of relying on and depending on him. It's a paradoxical image of a dead son comforting his grieving mother. Whether it was the sculptor's intention, a result of chance, or simply an illusion remains to be seen.

When Michelangelo was commissioned to create the "Vatican Pieta," he was still a young man with ambitious aspirations as a sculptor. He wanted to showcase his talent and create a beautiful, elegant, and sublime image of Mary mourning her son. There is nothing visually beautiful or sublime about the gruesome image of Jesus' body coming down from the cross, and Mary's sorrowful image. The "Vatican Pieta" was the product of his artistic talent and ambition. However, as he grew older, Michelangelo became disillusioned with art. He felt that his worldly success as an artist was futile, and he became skeptical of art's ability to capture reality.

He believed that "art and death do not go well together." That's why he spent more than ten years working on the "Rondanini Pieta," and yet it remained unfinished. His old age and reflection made him humble. How could one possibly complete or perfect the task of recreating the death of Jesus, which he never personally witnessed? In the face of such an incomprehensible death, his art became pale and all that remained was a thirst for truth. Ironically, this thirst for truth become something of solace.