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Visitors take pictures of Michelangelo's sculpture known as Bandini Pieta' as it goes on display in the Opera del Duomo museum, after being restored for the first time in around 470 years, in Florence, Italy, on January 20 2022. Picture: REUTERS/JENNIFER LORENZINI
Visitors take pictures of Michelangelo's sculpture known as Bandini Pieta' as it goes on display in the Opera del Duomo museum, after being restored for the first time in around 470 years, in Florence, Italy, on January 20 2022. Picture: REUTERS/JENNIFER LORENZINI

Florence — The restoration of Michelangelo's famed Pieta dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence has revealed that the single block of marble from which the masterpiece was sculpted was flawed, offering a likely reason for why it was abandoned before it was completed.

The statue, better known as the Bandini Pieta, represents the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene holding the body of Christ as he is taken down from the cross by a man, Nicodemus, whose face is the self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance artist.

“It's a Pieta that has suffered and is very intimate … it is a really personal statue,” Beatrice Agostini, director of the restoration project, told Reuters.

The works of restoration confirmed that the 2,700kg piece of marble had veins and numerous minute cracks, particularly on the base, which may have been the reason for Michelangelo's decision to stop working on the sculpture before finishing it, a statement said.

The artist had initially planned to place the sculpture next to his tomb but only years after beginning to sculpt it, in the mid-1500s, a then 75-year old Michelangelo decided to abandon the masterpiece, giving it as a gift to a servant, who then sold it to a banker, Francesco Bandini.

Restorers did not find any sign of hammer blows, making it unlikely the widespread hypothesis that an unhappy Michelangelo tried to destroy the sculpture in a moment of frustration, the statement added.

The noninvasive restoration started in 2019 but was interrupted several times due to the Covid-19 epidemic. Deposits were removed from the sculpture's surface, which was then cleaned, bringing it back to its original hue.

The project was commissioned and directed by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and was financed by US nonprofit organisation Friends of Florence.

“The operation has restored to the world the beauty of one of Michelangelo's most intense and troubled masterpieces,” a joint statement said.

Visitors have been able to witness all stages of the process as the statue was always on display, in an open laboratory, on a platform, behind a glass screen. 

Reuters

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