Did Michelangelo Have a Prideful Response to People Doubting his Creation of the Pietà?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to the world of sculpture and whether they are true or false.

SCULPTURE URBAN LEGEND: Michelangelo had an interesting response to people doubting his creation of the Pietà.

La Pietà is one of Michelangelo’s most famous works.

He was commissioned to do the work in 1497 when he was 22 years old. It was completed and displayed in 1499. The marble statue is distinctive for both its striking beauty AND for the manner in which Michelangelo depicts Mary as being much younger than most artists have drawn her.

Before its final (and current) resting place in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, it was first placed at the nearby Chapel of Santa Petronilla.

Now, according to Giorgio Vasari, when the work was installed, Michelangelo would hear people suggest that the work (which was quite popular right from the get-go) was done by various artists (Vasari specifically mentions Cristoforo “il Gobbo” Solari, but I’ve heard a variety of artists mentioned in the story – it’s likely that different people mentioned different artists).

Like Rodin (who ran into a similar problem with his first major sculpture, as detailed in this legend here), Michelangelo was a fairly unknown artist (he was still a couple of years removed from the work that would make him immensely famous, the statue of David), so it is reasonable enough that people would attribute the work to more famous artist.

Well, Michelangelo was quite irked by this, so he went and did something slightly drastic…
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Was Rodin’s First Major Sculpture Really Just a Plaster Cast of a Model?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to the world of sculpture and whether they are true or false.

SCULPTURE URBAN LEGEND: Auguste Rodin made a mold of a person for the basis of his statue, Age of Bronze.

In a lot of ways, the beginning of Auguste Rodin’s career helps prove the old saying, “Any publicity is good publicity.”

The first 30 years of Auguste Rodin’s life likely brought a good deal of development to him as an artist, but it did not do a lot for his bank account. He dealt with poverty for most of these years. 1870 was a turning point, though, for Rodin, as he moved to Brussels with his boss, artist Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse to do some ornamentation work on a palatial Brussels estate.

Although the two parted ways soon after arriving in Brussels, Rodin managed to get work in various other studios, and over time, he began to save up enough money to travel and study the masters of sculpture in Italy, like Donatello and Michelangelo.

In 1877, Rodin finally burst on to the international art scene with his work, Age of Bronze…

However, the stunningly life-like sculpture also brought a great deal of controversy to Rodin, as he was charged with a major no-no by the rest of the art world. It was said that Rodin made a cast of a model and then sculpted around that cast. That was a major artistic taboo.

Was it true?
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Was a Shakespeare Expert Really Called in to Rule on the Genital Authenticity of a Statue of a Character from a Shakespeare Play?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to the world of sculpture and whether they are true or false.

SCULPTURE URBAN LEGEND: A Shakespeare expert was called to rule on the genital authenticity of a statue of a character from a Shakespeare play.

Eric Gill was a widely respected designer of typefaces, and his work can still be seen on some Penguin books and some British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programs.

He was also a noted sculptor, and in 1931, he was commissioned by the BBC to do a sculpture outside of their offices in London. It seems as though Gill had a decent amount of freedom with his choice of subject, except that it was supposed to have something to do with culture (like based on a novel, a play, etc.).

Gill decided to draw two characters from William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

He decided on the lead character from the play, the banished sorceror, Prospero, as well as the sprite, Ariel (Gill chose Ariel as a bit of a play on words, as the BBC delivered their radio content through aerial transmissions). Gill decided to depict the two almost like father and son.

Here is the statue…

Well, there was a bit of a problem with Ariel’s, well, his penis.
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