Program Details

Michelangelo’s Pietà: The History of an Object

Emily Fenichel

Course Description

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica was completed around 1500. It was a towering achievement for the 25-year-old sculptor and has become one of the most beloved sculptures in the world. Every year, millions of tourists flock to the first chapel on the right side of St. Peter’s to catch a glimpse of the young, sad Madonna and her dead son cradled in her lap. Yet, the object itself has a history. From its commission as the tomb of a French Cardinal to its peregrinations throughout the basilica, to the iconoclasm of the 20th century, to the modern-day copies, we will consider just what the sculpture has been through in 500 years. Along the way, we’ll learn about Michelangelo’s career, cloistered nuns, miraculous objects, and World’s Fairs.

About the Instructor

  • Emily A. Fenichel is an Associate Professor of Art History at Florida Atlantic University who earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the art of the Italian Renaissance, specifically the religious of art of Michelangelo Buonarroti, on which she has published and lectured extensively. Her forthcoming book, Michelangelo’s Art of Devotion in the Age of Reform (Cambridge, 2023) considers the artist’s late religious works against the backdrop of Counter-Reformation Rome.