Casting of Michelangelo’s “Pieta” a permanent addition to DSU

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Dixie State University students can now stare into the mourning eyes of the Virgin Mary and study the shadows on the limp body of Jesus in a casting of Michelangelo’s Pietà, which is housed in the Sears Art Museum Gallery.

DSU received a rare casting of Michelangelo’s Pietà, thanks to an anonymous donor, and opened the special section of the gallery on Feb. 17. The casting is the 14 of 100 castings in existence and is a permanent addition.

The Pietà is a marble statue that depicts the Virgin Mary holding a crucified Jesus in her lap. It was carved by Michelangelo in the late 1400s for Cardinal Jean de Billheres. 

“So many people don’t have the opportunity to travel to Europe to see the original piece,” Art curator Kathy Cieslewicz said. “Here, you can look right into [Mary and Jesus’] faces, and you don’t have that opportunity even with the real Pietà.” 

Michelangelo’s original Pietà is kept behind bulletproof glass, and up in the wall away from guests, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. At DSU, it is about 3 feet away behind only a rope. There are leather benches pressed up against the large windows in the gallery that face the Pietà, and even though the blinds are normally closed, a soft light reflects off the casting.

Cieslewicz said DSU could get more pieces from Michelangelo through the company Arte Divine. She hopes to have different pieces in buildings around campus and host a Michelangelo walk. 

“It doesn’t matter what anybody’s religion is to be able to appreciate a great piece of art,” Cieslewicz said.

Brigitta Zhao, a junior art major from Shenyang, China, said looking at 2-D pictures is completely different than having a 3-D sculpture to reference.

“When I did my relief project I did it basing from a picture online, and I had to do the muscles all by guessing,” Zhao said. “It took me three weeks to finish [my piece]. Now I’m doing a torso and have a casting sculpture as reference. I could immediately tell what went wrong and fix it before too late.”

Zhao said she already visited the Pietà on campus and appreciated the masterpiece. She said she loves Michelangelo and his talents.

“So often we’re learning about things and studying art pieces that we’ll most likely never have any experience with in real life,” said Riley Anne Williamson, a junior art major from Layton. “But now we have an influential art piece that we’re studying in classes right in front of us.”

Williamson said she hopes the Pietà will inspire students to learn more about art and art history. 

“The Pietà is one of my favorite sculptures from its period,” Williamson said. “It’s beautifully and delicately crafted and contains so much emotion.”

The Sears Art Museum Gallery is hosting its 31st Annual Invitational Art Show and Sale until April 1. The special exhibition hours are Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., and admission is free.