Michelangelo’s the Pietà has inspired more black and grey tattoos than any other statue in the world, putting other masterpieces like the Venus de Milo and Rodin’s the Thinker to shame. The style’s propensity to mimic the appearance of stone allows for picture perfect renditions of the masterpiece, bringing its immaculate features into sharp focus. Some tattoos of this graven image are so pristine that they even rival Michelangelo’s handiwork.
A lot of people aren’t aware that Michelangelo’s sculpture isn’t the only Pietà in existence. The term actually refers to depictions of the Madonna that have been a part of Christian art since the 12th century, when they first appeared as small wooden figurines from Germany. By the 1400s, the image of the Virgin Mary holding Christ’s dead body had spread to Italy, and was picked up by Michelangelo when he was commissioned to create a statue for Cardinal’s Jean de Bilhères funeral monument. The sculptor said that it was carved from the most perfect block of marble that he ever worked with. The statue took two years to complete, and is famously the only piece of art that Michelangelo ever signed.
Michelangelo’s Pietà, which resides in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, stands out from others not only because of its size and impeccable craftsmanship, but also because of his unique interpretation of the scene. His depiction of Mary differs from most of his contemporaries in that he made her young and reposeful, a huge departure from the more aged and sorrowful representations of the Blessed Virgin. The sculpture is considered the perfect marriage of classical beauty and naturalism, combining the aesthetic of Greek statuary with art theory from the Italian Renaissance. Since being unveiled, it has become one of the most influential works of Christian art, and was virtually predetermined to one day be translated into black and grey tattoos.
To see more black and grey homages to renowned works of art, make sure to follow these artists on Instagram. If you’d like your own picture perfect rendition of Michelangelo’s Pietà, have one of these realists sculpt it on your body.
This has been our series Water and Ash, where we showcase only the best of black and grey tattoos. If you enjoyed looking at tattoo tributes to characters from classic horror films — the really old ones like Lon Chaney’s Dracula — be sure to check out our previous installments about modern and classic horror homages, giant eyeballs, statuesque work, and Chicano-style payasa girls.