Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Undone, and Done.
This is Michelangelo's last statue, the unfinished Rondanini Pietà, which he started sometime in his eighties. The depiction of Jesus and Mary at first glance appears to be a Mother supporting her Son, as his bodily form slips away. But seen from another angle, it appears that it is the Son who is supporting the Mother, with her full weight pressed on his back as he gives his strength so that she may stand tall. And still, some say that the two are essentially fused, all barriers dissolved between Mother and Son, perhaps as an expression of Michelangelo's own personal loss (his mother died when he was 6).
Whatever the case may be, the piece stands as unique among his works. It is as much a confrontation with his own mortality and human frailty, as it is a testament to his undying belief in his purpose to merge his hands with God's intent. It is a rough, haunting final story of a spirit in unrelenting creative flow, even as his body, nearly 90 at that point, wished to pen its final page.
Art critics routinely pass over this work, dismissing it as "pitiful" and a product of mental weakness and loss of power. I don't see it like that at all, but rather, an acceptance of never being able to fully understand that which he loved so much. Fitting then, that he left it unfinished.