Roman Pietà

The Roman Pietà or Large Pietà, the best known sculpture of Ivan Meštrović, depicts the dead Jesus, taken down from the cross, in his mother’s lap. When Meštrović modelled it in early 1943 in Rome in which he had found refuge from the war, he was much under the influence of the tragic events of the conflict.

HEAD OF JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA
(detail from the Roman Pietà)

Rome, 1943-1946
bronze, 39.5 x 61 x 35 cm
owned by the Meštrović Gallery, inv. no. GMS-129

The Roman Pietà or Large Pietà, the best known sculpture of Ivan Meštrović, depicts the dead Jesus, taken down from the cross, in his mother’s lap. When Meštrović modelled it in early 1943 in Rome in which he had found refuge from the war, he was much under the influence of the tragic events of the conflict.

Its making was preceded by drawings that were made between 1941 and 1943. In them we can see how the artist, deliberating on the composition of the sculpture, varied the posing and number of figures. The crucial impact on the final appearance of the work was made by the Michelangelo marble Pietà of about 1550, in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence.

The sculptural composition is composed of the figures of Jesus, the Virgin, Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea, which is in fact a Meštrović self-portrait.

In 1946, the sculpture was carved in Carrara marble. Today, this version is placed in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Notre Dame University, Indiana, USA. The plaster model is exhibited in the permanent display of the Meštrović Gallery in Split. A plaster cast of 1960 is placed in the Pontifical Croatian College of St Jerome in Rome. The bronze cast is part of the holdings of the Vatican Museums.
(M. Š. P.)