AskDefine | Define pieta

Dictionary Definition

pieta n : a representation of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Jesus

Extensive Definition

This article is about a subject in art. There is also a town called Pietà, Malta
For the manga by Nanae Haruno, see Pietà (manga).
The Pietà (pl. same; Italian for pity) is a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, most often found in sculpture. As such, it is a particular form of the devotional theme of Our Lady of Sorrows, and also a scene from the Passion of Christ and is the 13th of the Stations of the Cross. When Christ and the Virgin are surrounded by other figures from the New Testament (see Deposition of Christ), the subject is strictly called a Lamentation, although Pietà is often used for this as well. The Pietà developed in Florence, Italy in 1500, and reached Italy about 1505. Many German and Polish 15th century examples in wood greatly emphasise Christ's wounds.


The term "pietà" (Latin: pietas) originated from a custom of the Roman Empire around the time of 64 AD, referring to the act of prostrating oneself, and putting forth an "Emotion...of great love accompanied with revering fear....of the [Roman] gods."


The most famous Pietà is Michelangelo's Pietà in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. His interpretation is different from most earlier pietà statues, which were usually smaller and in wood. The Virgin is also unusually youthful, and in repose, rather than the older, sorrowing Mary of most pietàs. Michelangelo's last work was another Pietà, this one featuring not the Virgin Mary holding Christ, but rather Joseph of Arimathea, probably carved as a self-portrait.
Sculptor Luis Jiménez, reversing the gender of the figures involved, used the popular Mexican and Chicano image and myth of the Aztec warrior holding his dead lover to create the monumental Southwest Pietà, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.
The American Pietà was the name given to a famous Reuters photograph of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, depicting a policeman and four firemen carrying the body of fire department chaplain Mychal F. Judge out of the World Trade Center rubble.
A rare leather pietà is in the church St. Peter and Paul in Eschweiler, Germany.
In 1990 the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote a piece, as part of the Tuesday cycle of his opera 'Licht,' titled 'Pietà.' In the performance Michael lies wounded and is tended to by Eve.


pieta in Catalan: Pietà de Michelangelo
pieta in Czech: Pieta
pieta in Danish: Pietà
pieta in German: Pietà
pieta in Spanish: Piedad del Vaticano
pieta in French: Pietà
pieta in Italian: Pietà (arte)
pieta in Hebrew: פייטה
pieta in Georgian: პიეტა
pieta in Korean: 피에타
pieta in Luxembourgish: Pietà
pieta in Hungarian: Pietà
pieta in Dutch: Piëta
pieta in Japanese: ピエタ
pieta in Norwegian: Pietà
pieta in Polish: Pietà
pieta in Portuguese: Pietà (Michelangelo)
pieta in Russian: Не рыдай Мене, Мати
pieta in Swedish: Pietà
pieta in Thai: ปีเอต้า
pieta in Turkish: Pietà
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