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Michelangelo’s Pietà as Tomb Monument: Patronage, Liturgy, and Mourning

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Emily A. Fenichel*
Florida Atlantic University


In focusing on Michelangelo’s signature, recent scholarship on his “Pietà” in St. Peter’s has separated the sculpture from its spiritual intent. In contrast, this article will consider how the sculpture group spoke to its original religious context, principally as the funerary monument of Michelangelo’s powerful French patron, Cardinal Lagraulas. The Rome “Pietà” was an important part of the funeral rites for the cardinal that mirrors and amplifies the liturgy surrounding death, particularly the hour of vespers. Reconstructing the sculpture’s relationship to its liturgical and funerary ensemble will highlight Michelangelo’s iconographic and artistic ingenuity in the service of religion and his patron.

Research Article
Copyright © 2017 Renaissance Society of America

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