The Pietà by Michelangelo housed in the Opera del Duomo in Florence, or the Bandini Pietà, is undergoing restoration work that began on November 23, 2019, and finishing in the summer of 2020. The public will be able to see all the stages of the restoration thanks to a specially designed “open” work site in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo where the sculpture is preserved.
The restoration work, commissioned by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and funded by the Friends of Florence Foundation under the supervision of the ABAP Superintendency for the metropolitan city of Florence and the provinces of Pistoia and Prato, was entrusted to Paola Rosa. Assisted by a team of professionals trained at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, she has thirty years of experience in restoring works by great artists of the past, including Michelangelo.
The Pietà at the Opera del Duomo in Florence was sculpted by Michelangelo from a huge block of white Carrara marble between 1547 and about 1555, on the eve of his 80th birthday. It is one of the three Pietà sculpted by the great artist and expresses his life experiences and human suffering. Unlike the other two—his youthful work in the Vatican and the later Rondanini—the body of Christ is not only supported by Mary but also by Magdalene and the elderly Nicodemus, to whom Michelangelo gave his own face. This detail is confirmed by two biographers, the artist’s contemporaries Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi, thanks to whom we know that the sculpture was made for an altar in a church in Rome, beneath which the artist wished to be buried. The Pietà of Florence, Michelangelo’s masterpiece, “like other sculptures by Buonarroti,” said Timothy Verdon, director of the Museum, “is considered an unfinished work, though the most suitable wording for it would be that of the 16th century when it was still called an infinite work.”
The restoration will respect the consolidated vision of a visibly “amber” surface on the Pietà and will respect the patinas that over time, with their natural aging process, have transformed the original colors of the marble. The initial restoration phase will involve a large diagnostic campaign with the aim of improving the legibility of the work which has been dulled by the presence of deposits and substances that are foreign to the marble surfaces of the sculptural group.
“The works in the new museum have been undergoing a vast restoration campaign carried out for the opening to the public at the end of 2015,” stated the President of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore Luca Bagnoli. “The Pietà by Michelangelo, one of the most iconic masterpieces in the Museum’s collection, was still in need of restoration work. The Opera decided to begin this delicate project as well, with the support of the Friends of Florence Foundation, to improve the work’s legibility and allow the thousands of visitors who choose to view our monuments each year to better enjoy this extraordinary masterpiece.”
President of the Friends of Florence Foundation Simonetta Brandolini D’Adda said, “Since we, with the Friends of Florence, began the journey to safeguard Florence’s heritage—which is humanity’s heritage—we have always given special attention to the restoration of Michelangelo’s works: from the David to the Slaves, from the artist’s drawings to the River God, and the repositioning of Michelangelo’s Christ in wood in the center of the Sacristy in Santo Spirito. Together with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, we are now about to embark on a fascinating project to restore the Bandini Pietà, a true masterpiece that reflects the tormented soul of the great genius Michelangelo.”