Gagini's La Pietà - the Calabrian Renaissance at the Soverato Superiore
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gagini pietà statue

Gagini’s La Pietà

In the solemn setting of the Mother Church of Maria Santissima Addolorata di Soverato Superiore, along what is called the Costa degli Aranci (the Orange Coast), is a Renaissance masterpiece bearing the signature of Antonello Gagini, one of the greatest sculptors of southern Italy in this thriving artistic period.

We are talking about the Pietà, a marble sculpture inspired by the Pietà by the great Michelangelo Buonarroti, yet subject to a unique reinterpretation that confers its unique identity.

The work was commissioned on 26th September 1521 by Giovanni Martino D’Aquino, who asked Gagini to sculpt his most “beautiful and excellent” work. The artist was commissioned to create a white marble sculpture measuring 155 cm (6 palms), at the centre of which was San Tommaso D’Aquino overcoming Averroes (the most significant Arab philosopher of the Middle Ages). The result satisfied and exceeded expectations: the face of the Madonna expresses a more humane and intense suffering than Michelangelo’s representation, with the mother of Christ, bearing a decidedly younger face, revealing a restrained pain characterised by an aura of serenity.

Originally, the masterpiece was dedicated to the church of the Santa Maria della Pietà di Petrizzi convent, which however was impacted by the devastating earthquake that brought southern Italy to its knees in 1783. A cart pulled by oxen carried the damaged marble works to the Soverato Superiore, to be repainted, with the contribution of blood stains on the Christ.

Beginning in 1964, work began on the restoration of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (the Workshop of Semi-precious Stones) in Florence, which provided the missing fragments and, in 1968, returned the work to the Mother Church, where it can be admired today.

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