Michelangelo Buonarrotti, The Deposition (Pieta Bandini), 1545-55, marble, Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo, Florence. Wikimedia Commons.

Two days ago, The Florentine reported that the restoration of Michelangelo’s Pieta Bandini has now been completed.

Funded by the Friends of Florence, a US non-profit organisation supported by individuals across the globe, the restoration, which began in 2019, “was interrupted several times due to pandemic restrictions.” However, the restoration process was considered to have “provided a unique opportunity to explore the sculpture’s complicated history and the techniques that Buonarroti used to create the masterpiece.”

The Florentine reported that the following significant discovery was made during the restoration:

“The statue’s four figures, including the elderly Nicodemus bearing Michelangelo’s face, were carved from a single marble block that stands over two metres high and weighs approximately 2,700 kilograms. Diagnostic tests revealed that the marble originated in quarries situated in Seravezza, in northern Tuscany, and not from Carrara, as previously believed. This is a significant discovery as the Seravezza quarries were owned by the Medici family and Giovanni de’ Medici, who would go on to become Pope Leo X, had instructed Michelangelo to use this particular marble to craft the façade of the San Lorenzo basilica in Florence and to open up a sea route to transport the raw material.”

The publication also confirmed that the sculpture was created from a defective piece of marble:

“In his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects (1550), Giorgio Vasari described the marble as ‘hard’, ‘full of impurities’ and that it ‘sparked’ with every strike of the chisel. The restoration unearthed various pyrite sections embedded in the stone, which were undoubtedly made from sparking when the marble was worked, in addition to countless micro-fractures, especially one on the front and back of the base. The theory is that, on encountering the fracture while carving Christ’s left arm and the Virgin Mary’s arm, Michelangelo was forced to give up on the project as it meant he was unable to conclude the commission. Another hypothesis is that Michelangelo, now in his later years and unhappy with the end product, decided to destroy the sculpture with hammer blows. The restoration, however, showed no evidence to support this theory, unless fellow sculptor Tiberio Calcagni erased the marks.”

Michelangelo’s sculpture will remain elevated on the platform used during the restoration until March 2022, to enable visitors to scrutinise the work at close quarters and from “a singular perspective.”

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