A portrait of the artist as an old man: Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà in late-life development
Jones, Christopher Evan
The focus of this dissertation is Michelangelo’s late-life development in his art and his life. While the recent decades in religion and personality have included more work on gender and ethnicity, there remains relatively little work on late-life issues and geriatric development. It is important to consider geriatric development from a variety of different perspectives, and while it is hardly an exhaustive set of perspectives, I have included those from psychology, critical theory, and art history. These disciplines frame this dissertation’s core example: a case study of the elder Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) using the fruit of his long life and career—a career in which his final piece was an enigmatic crescent-shaped marble sculpture now known as the <i>Rondanini Pietà</i>. After considering various themes that developed throughout the artist’s long and prolific life, the proposition is that there are parallels between his late-life artistic themes and the late-life developmental themes that emerge from his extant biographical data. One major conclusion is that these themes include a conflict between integration and disintegration, a conflict to which he may have achieved some resolution in both his art and in his life. Poised between integration and disintegration, Michelangelo’s late-life and work remain fascinating for their mystery, and with a hermeneutic reconstruction, the interpretive layers of death, birth, unity, and disunity come together in Michelangelo’s final artwork.