This most supremely elegant and graceful sculpture was begun by the young Michelangelo at the age only twenty-three. The pyramidal composition, with the Virgin’s startlingly youthful face at the apex, displays the sculptor’s early mastery of form and contour, seen most clearly in the drapery.
The rightly drawn, flat folds of Christ’s loincloth contrast eloquently with the plump, complicated ruching of his mother’s robes, and the generous sweep of the funeral shroud seems to cradle him as much as she does.
Michelangelo is said to have been criticized for his unrealistically youthful depiction of Mary, whose face radiates serenity and acceptance rather than distraught grief. It was deliberate, he replied, for time could not mar the features of this most blessed of Virgin.
Sculptor, painter, architect, engineer and poet, Michelangelo occupied the pinnacle of Renaissance art during his lifetime, and remains there today.
This is the only work he ever signed -on the sash across the Virgin’s chest.