Throughout his life, the Renaissance master Michelangelo sculpted not one or two, but three of his famous Pietà: a marble depiction of the body of Jesus on the lap of Mary after the Crucifixion.
The last of the three was sculpted in his old age, Michelangelo beginning his work on it at 72. It was said he made it to decorate his tomb at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
After 8 years of working on it however, he destroyed the proto-Pietà in a fit of rage for reasons unknown.
Some experts believe it was because the marble proved flawed and his work could not be completed without the addition of a piece of marble from another block. While working on it, he had often complained about a vein in the marble causing him issues constantly while he sculpted.
After his fit of rage, the in-pieces proto-Pietà was sold Francesco Bandini, who hired apprentice sculptor Tiberio Calcagni to restore the work. Calcagni had to reattach the limbs of Mary Magdalene, the Virgin’s fingers, Christ’s left nipple, Christ’s left arm and elbow, and Christ’s right arm and hand – His left leg remains missing to this day.
The sculpture is said to depict “Nicodemus holding Christ’s body. His face is that of Michelangelo. The body of the crucified also rests on the Blessed Mother. They’re accompanied by Mary Magdalene.”
Held today at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museum of the Works of the Cathedral, in Florence, it was being restored before the coronavirus pandemic stopped all work.
After Italy eased the restrictions, the museum immediately resumed the restoration work and recently unveiled the completed sculpture after cleaning away centuries of dust and wax to find artist tool marks and other details beneath.