Restoration reveals the secrets of Michelangelo’s Pietà Bandini

We are between 1547 and 1555. Michelangelo sculpts the Pietà in a single large block of white marble. It depicts the Virgin and Mary Magdalene receiving the body of Christ, deposed from the cross by the elderly Nicodemus. Buonarroti, in his seventies, thought that the sculpture could be placed on the altar where he wanted to be buried. But then, unsatisfied, he abandons the Pietà, still unfinished, and gives it to his servant Antonio da Casteldurante. He has it restored by Tiberio Calcagni, Florentine sculptor student of the master and sells it for 200 scudi to the banker Francesco Bandini, who will place it in the garden of his residence, the villa di Montecavallo in Rome. After several ownership changes, it was purchased in 1671 by Cosimo III de’ Medici. Transporting it to Florence wasn’t simple, reason for which it reached the Tuscan city only three years later, by sea and then along the Arno. Today the sculptural group known as the Pietà Bandini is in the new Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo in Florence on a pedestal that recalls the altar to which it was probably destined.

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Michelangelo's Pietà restoration, Courtesy Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, photo Claudio Giovannini/CGE

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