Connections · Look Here

Connections: Michelangelo vs. Keu Cha

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In Michelangelo’s sculpture, known variously as The Deposition, The Florence Pietà, the Pietà del Duomo, and The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, the left leg of the central figure of Jesus Christ is not obscured by his other, foreground leg or tucked behind the figure of his mother, Mary, at the viewer’s right. Rather, the left leg, which was originally draped over Mary’s knee, was removed/smashed by the artist, who then decided, for some reason, to give the sculpture to a servant.

Art historian Leo Steinberg has argued that Michelangelo smashed the sculpture because he had second thoughts about the sexual symbolism of the intertwined legs, but others claim that Michelangelo was simply angry because he discovered a flaw in the marble that made it impossible to continue the carving. As I recall, Steinberg’s historical evidence for the existence of such a symbol is fairly strong, but whether or not Michelangelo was aware that his composition might arouse controversy and smashed the leg (and more) as a result remains an open question.

Keywords: Michelangelo Buonarotti, Keu Cha, Deposition, Florence, Florentine, Pieta

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