Critique My Paper!

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Critique My Paper!

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    11-12-2008, 06:36 PM
Green Broke
Critique My Paper!

I have a paper due on Sunday about a sculpture critique. We were able to choose our subject, so I picked Michelangelo's Pietá.

Here is what I was supposed to address:

A. State the name of your sculpture and give the name of the artist/sculptor. Give the date or the approximate date that the sculpture was completed.

B. State what material(s) the sculpture is made from.

C. Explain how the sculpture was formed. Was it carved, was it modeled by forming or shaping as with clay or bronze, was it formed by assemblage as in uniting materials such as metals or plastics?

D. Describe the color, texture (rough, smooth, etc.), light and shadow, and the focal point (what YOU believe is the focal point).

E. Discuss the composition of the sculpture; that is, what is in the sculpture (1 dancer?) and how the elements are organized.

Here is a picture of the sculpture:


And here is what I wrote:

I chose to give a descriptive critique of Michelangelo’s Pietá. The Pietá has been done in many different forms, by many different artists, of all the different sculptures and paintings of the Pietá, Michelangelo’s far surpasses the rest. This sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary holding the lifeless body of her son, Christ, carved out of a single segment of marble.

In 1498 Michelangelo was in his early twenties when he negotiated a commission with a French ambassador in the Holy See to sculpt one of his greatest masterpieces, the Pietá[1]. The sculpture was to be unveiled in St. Peter’s Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500. In two year’s time, Michelangelo had created one of the world’s most valuable works of art[2]. What sets Michelangelo’s Pietá apart from the other previous creations, was the emotion Michelangelo gave to the Virgin Mary. He wanted to a more youthful and celestial Mary, instead of broken, older Mary formerly depicted by other artists.

One major focal point of the Pietá is the youth of the Virgin Mary. In its time, this seemingly small detail was very controversial and was strongly criticized by others. Other than the youthfulness of the Virgin Mary, I would be hard pressed to pick an overall focal point of the Pietá. The seemingly innocent grace Mary holds; the slight tilt in her head; the very fine detail of the lifeless body of Christ, every vein, muscle and nerve seems to draw ones attention. It really is no wonder why this sculpture is referred to as “Devine Beauty”.

The Pietá happens to be one of the most finished sculptures created by Michelangelo; it is also the only sculpture he signed. After it’s unveiling, Michelangelo over heard a group of on lookers comment on the beauty of the Pietá, and gave credit to another artist of his time. That very same night Michelangelo returned to his sculpture and etched his name on the sash of the Virgin Mary. Filled with shame of his actions, Michelangelo vowed to never sign another sculpture of his again.

Today the Pietá is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. If ever I were to be so lucky to be in such a historic city, I would make St. Peter’s to see the Pietá my very first stop. Michelangelo devoted so much effort to the Pietá, I think it signifies so much to so many people, if ever I were so lucky, I would love the chance to gaze upon this piece of Divine Beauty.

[1] Michelangelo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Michelangelo's Pieta -

I am not completely happy with the last paragraph, so if you have any suggestions, I would be open to them.

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    11-13-2008, 06:49 AM
Here are some of my initial thoughts:

Mary's youthful, yes, but how is your attention drawn to that fact? What is suggested by the poses of the figures? Is there significance to the contrast between Mary's smooth, youthful, flowing figure and Jesus' emaciation and awkward position?

I would talk more about the actual piece rather than just its history. Marble is grey; it can look very cold. Has the sculptor made the stone look warm or cold, how has he used its tone and texture to add to the piece? Has he made skin and cloth look soft or hard? How did he achieve this?

I've visited Florence and one of the things I noticed was the attention to detail these sculptors paid when depicting flesh. In many of them, when fingers were pressed into the skin of another person, you could see the dimples, or the way the flesh was pushed aside. Details like that help convey softness even in the hard medium of stone.

Also consider how the sculpture was originally viewed and the influence this had on the design - famously, David is designed to be viewed from below, the proportions changed so that it would look right from such an angle. Consider the kind of lighting it may originally have had and how it is displayed now, and what effects that may have.

Rennaissance scultpors displayed an exquisite knowledge of the human anatomy. Is that apparent here and what impact does that have, given the divinity of the subject?

Justify your comment about a 'celestial' Mary (and a youthful one) by discussing how she is actually depicted.

Spelling and grammar. At one point you say 'devine' instead of 'divine'. It should be 'in two years' time', 'he wanted to a more youthful ...' and 'instead of broken, older' need to be changed, though the latter may be how you wanted to phrase it. In the third paragraph your use of commas and semi-colons is inconsistent. Fourth paragraph there is an it's that should be an its, overheard is one word, as is onlookers. It should be give credit, not gave credit, to make the tenses agree. 'Filled with the shame of' or 'Filled with shame for' would be better. In the final paragraph, 'so lucky as to be in' might be better. Also, you've repeated that phrase.

In terms of tone, I don't know how you're supposed to phrase your critiques but I personally would never begin with 'I chose to give a descriptive critique of'. I would just launch straight in with a phrase such as, "Michelangelo's 'Pietá' is widely regarded as one of the most emotive and skilled depictions of Mary holding Christ's body." I would cut down on the 'me' and 'I', they're not necessary to indicate that your writing is a personal response.

I think you've given plenty of history but haven't really tackled the actual sculpture very much. Try and write more about what you can actually see in front of you.

Finally, I would try and look for more sources than just Wikipedia and one other website.
    11-13-2008, 07:04 AM
I somewhat agree with Claire, though I never seen that sculpture before. Your presentation/report should based on things like explaining what people can see and yes a little history too as to where it came from and what was the main idea behind the project.

A person like me would look at the sculpture and first thought in mind would be who are they? And why was this made? What's the reason behind it? (if I tell you honestly I thought of as Jesus and Marry however wasn't sure until read about it). In other words, the sculpture speaks for itself, you got to express the technicalities of the art work which has been done.

So I'd say emphasize more on the work done on the sculpture. I would have critique even more if I was in your class, sitting there and listening what you were saying , so you are lucky I'm not in your class. Haha ....jk

    11-13-2008, 09:04 AM
Green Broke
Just wanted to say that sometimes you refer to it as The Pietá, and other times as the Pietá.

I'd also get a few more sources in is good, but not so good for papers

I think I remember doing this piece when I was in an art class a few years ago...we talked a lot about her face and the folds of fabric/shadows and symmetry.
    11-13-2008, 09:26 AM
Super Moderator
I have no idea how to critique your paper but it sounds really good....
    11-13-2008, 09:49 AM
Green Broke
Thanks for all of the insight you guys.

I chose to talk about the history more, because I felt it was important, and indeed a part of the sculpture, to me that is what stood out the most. I don't feel that I can do a proper critique of the Pieta being that I only have the internet and one picture in my text book to view it. I'd be able to give a far better description if I were to actually see the Pieta. Just my opinion tho.

I haven't done a final read through, so all of the grammar and spelling I missed will be touched up. Honestly the comma's and semi colons are the hardest for me to place. I am always so conscious about confusing my readers so I tend to over use.
    11-13-2008, 10:48 AM
Ta-da! Lots of pictures of the piece. I can even find close-ups of the signature and things like that.

Critique and analysis of any piece of art, whether literature, scultpture, painting, dance, or music, should consider the context of the piece but should focus on the piece itself. You would not be writing the right essay if in an English Literature class you talked solely about the publication history of the book and never made reference to the text itself.

Note that your textbook is also a source you can use and reference.

There is so much to see and talk about with this piece. I think the depiction of Christ is incredibly human - the veins, the muscles, the bunch of flesh under his arm where it's pushed there by Mary's hand, the anatomical detail and the thin, skinny condition which is so very different to the ideal human form. Given that this is set at the time of Christ's death, a period when his twin mortality and divinity were most important, the presentation of Christ's body in such a realistic, human and imperfect fashion is even more significant. Does it emphasise the humanity and in doing so reinforce the divinity that is entirely implicit? Or is it possible that this could be interpreted as denying Christ's godhood?

Note that I am not promogulating conspiracy theories when I make such comments. The good analyst looks at all possible points of view, considering how things could be interpreted, the variety of conclusions that could be drawn. None are necessarily right or wrong, some are better supported than others, but all are valid lines of thought and you demonstrate good technique and insight by offering many opinions.
    11-13-2008, 11:05 AM
Claire are you sure you are student at Uni and not a lecturer? Ahhh you flattering me with your quality of posts! Hahaha

    11-13-2008, 11:12 AM
I just did English Lit A level and have always had a keen interest in art. I loooove literary and artistic analysis, it's so much fun :)

Also I would always have long conversations with my teachers not just about the pieces we were studying but the actual topic of analysis and criticism. I got great marks in my final English Lit exams - which are externally marked by some random examiner on the other side of the country. I guess they liked the fact that I called EM Forster's writing amateurish in its overly-obvious use of literary technique xD I love the fact that even 'this isn't very good' is a perfectly valid opinion - as long as you can support what you're saying from the text, or artwork.
    11-13-2008, 11:17 AM
Green Broke
Oye I have more writing to do. Lol

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