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Michelangelo's Florence Pietà
Jack Wasserman
With contributions by Franca Trinchieri Camiz, Timothy Verdon, and Peter Rockwell
Technical studies by ENEA, Opificio delle Pietre Dure, and IBM
New Photography by Aurelio Amendola

Hardcover | 2003 | This edition is out of print | ISBN: 9780691016214


This is the most thorough and revealing study ever of one of Michelangelo's most beautiful, dramatic, and debated works of art: the Florence Pietà. The artist designed the monumental statue late in life for his own tomb, but after a decade of intermittent labor he badly damaged the work, which was later repaired by an assistant. Jack Wasserman, the book's editor and main author, enlists the expertise of scholars Timothy Verdon and Franca Trinchieri Camiz, sculptor Peter Rockwell, and three teams of scientists to understand a work of extraordinary emotional power. By examining all aspects of the statue's depiction of Christ and of his physical relationship to the other figures, especially the Virgin, this book brings to life Michelangelo's great struggle to give conclusive form to his own relationship to God--a relationship unmistakably reflected in the artist's representation of himself as the bearded man supporting Christ.

Through an unprecedented multidisciplinary approach that combines technical, historical, archival, and interpretive analysis, the book clarifies and revises the history of the Pietà from its inception to its reception through the centuries. For the first time ever, a computer-generated virtual model is used to study a major work of art by revealing previously unimaginable detail and perspectives, including the extent of the initial repairs and subsequent alterations made to the sculpture. Numerous illustrations reveal the Pietà in rich detail and an accompanying CD-ROM provides access to the digital imagery while expanding the book’s technical and scientific content.

Wasserman reaches a striking conclusion about why Michelangelo mutilated the statue, a conclusion sure to inspire lively debate. He seeks to resolve a host of other questions such as: What religious message did Michelangelo seek to convey? Is the Pietà a "pietà" at all? As all lovers of art will appreciate, this book, by providing a fresh, systematic, and comprehensive investigation of this magnificent work, represents a vital key to understanding Michelangelo's entire oeuvre.


"Despite the lavish illustrations, this is no mere picture book; the story is far too compelling to leave it on the coffee table."--Michael Brooks, New Scientist

"Utterly absorbing, this book sets new standards in art historical scholarship."--Booklist

"This unique, inter-disciplinary study of a major but perplexing work of art will no doubt be challenged in respect of some of its conclusions, but is unlikely to be confronted by any serious rival in terms of its broad scope and closely argued detail."--Brain Tovey, Art Newspaper

"Carefully sifting through documentary and visual evidence, Wasserman constructs a plausible explanation for [the statue's] mutilation, arguing that Michelangelo did not take a hammer to the marble. . . . For many readers, the book will be especially memorable because of its accompanying CD-ROM. This consists of bite-sized files which explain how IBM programmed scanners to create a three-dimensional, digital model of the sculpture. The information provided by this model helped Wasserman and his colleagues to reconstruct the original appearance of the work and its early installations."--Bruce Boucher, Times Literary Supplement

"In this masterful book, Wasserman opens new findings on Michelangelo's Florentine Pieta. . . . An extraordinary publishing event."--Choice

"An unusually suspenseful piece of historical scholarship. . . . Jack Wasserman uses a persuasive mix of technology and psychology to probe Michelangelo's intentions for this sculpture."--Hilarie M. Sheets, New York Times Book Review

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File created: 3/10/2015

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