|Elodie at 5 / 12 x 12 / oil on linen panel|
A note to John Simlett - John, your recent series work painting your great grandchildren spurred me to do this portrait. Thank you for being my inspiration!
Ever since my trip to Europe in May, I have been thinking and thinking about the Pieta and how arrestingly sublime it is - while in St. Peter's Basilica I longed to get closer to inspect it more intimately but of course that was impossible. I was also a little bit disappointed that the way it is displayed, raised up above eye level, caused Christs face to be obscured. Since coming home, I have poured over as many photos of this magnificent sculpture as I can find and decided to learn more about Michelangelo himself.
My interest in the sculptor led me to a scholarly book by Miles J. Unger enttled Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces. It is a critical biography that provides insight into the genius of the man as well as the struggles he encountered in his quest to remain true to his artistic philosophy while working for the most powerful, wealthy and influential men of his era. I was completely surprised to learn that Michelangleo carved the Pieta (his first masterpiece) from a single flawless piece of Carrara marble when he was the tender age of 24 years. After seeing a slightly tipsy Bacchus sculpted by Michelangelo standing in the garden of a Roman merchant, the French Cardinal to the Vatican was impressed enough to commission him to carve a pious work for his tomb. Interestingly, the contract stipulated that the finished piece must be "the most beautiful marble there is today in Rome and that no other living master could do better." The basic form for the Pieta was worked out in a series of drawings from live models and Michelangelo insisted on carving mostly in secret. Unfortunately the French Cardinal died before the sculpture was completed. But, nonetheless, the world agreed that Michelangelo lived up the the contractual terms as it was immediately declared a masterpiece that not only surpassed the work of his contemporaries but challenged the ancients themselves. My love for this statue is due to the absolute humanity emanating from the hard cold marble making it powerfully evocative and profoundly moving.
Shall I tell you about Masterpiece # 2 in my next post?