In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of Madonna of Bruges facts, a fascinating sculpture by Michelangelo.
1. Michelangelo created it when he was still in his twenties
Michelangelo Buonarroti was still a teenager when he started creating marvelous sculptures in Florence, so the Madonna of Bruges definitely wasn’t his first work.
He was, however, still a young man because he was born in the year 1475 and created this sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary and her Child Jesus Christ between 1501 and 1504. This means he was in his late twenties when he completed it.
2. It’s located in a marvelous church in Bruges
The name refers to both the sculpture, which is that of the Virgin Mary referred to as the “Madonna,” and the location it’s being held. That’s the amazing church called “Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk” or “Church of Our Lady” in Bruges, Belgium.
In the early 16th century, Bruges was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe and is still described as the “Venice of the North. The church has been described as:
“A monument to the wealth, sophistication, taste, and devotion of this most Catholic city, whose history and faith stand today celebrated in this wonderful building.”
3. It’s a relatively big sculpture
Michelangelo didn’t mind creating enormous sculptures, and the madonna of Bruges isn’t different. This marble sculpture stands about 2 meters (79 inches) tall.
Michelangelo completed the even bigger Statue of David the same year he completed the Madonna of Bruges. David stands about 5.17 meters tall (17 feet) and is so big because it was intended to decorate the roof of the Cathedral of Florence.
4. There’s something very special about the Madonna of Bruges
One of the most fascinating Madonna of Bruges facts is that it’s the only sculpture of Michelangelo that left Italy during his lifetime. It was bought by two wealthy cloth merchants named Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni for 4,000 Florins.
Until today, the sculpture is the only one of the artist in the Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands).
5. It differs a lot from earlier depictions of the Madonna and Child
The Madonna with Child was a very popular type of sculpture at the time and most of the sculptures depicted the Virgin Mary looking down at her child while smiling and caressing her baby.
With this sculpture, Mary seems to be looking away from her child while barely holding him with her left hand. a clear difference compared to earlier depictions.
6. The sculpture has a melancholic twist about it
So why is it that Mary doesn’t seem to care about her baby Jesus? If you look closely, you can see that the child even tends to be moving away from her.
The change in depiction indicates that Mary is sad about what is to become of her son, which is part of the realism of the Renaissance instead of trying to portray things overly positive.
7. It does resemble one of his most famous sculptures
One of the most interesting Madonna of Bruges facts is that the style it was sculpted in resembles the same style Michelangelo used in one of his most famous sculptures. This sculpture is called the “Pietà” and is located in the St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and was completed between 1498 and 1499.
8. It was stolen by the French during the Revolution
The first time that the sculpture was moved out of Belgium was during the French Revolution. The revolutionaries conquered what was then the Austrian Netherlands to which Bruges belonged in 1794 and seized numerous works of art, including Michelangelo’s famous sculpture in Bruges.
The sculpture was shipped to Paris but was ultimately returned when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
9. It was stolen again during World War II
Who would have thought that the Nazis would be capable of stealing vast amounts of world-famous art, right?
Well, they did, and the Madonna of Bruges was one of the thousands of pieces of art that were stolen by retreating Germans in the year 1944.
They had to use an ingenious trick though as the statue was wrapped in mattresses and hidden in a Red Cross truck.
What happened next remains unclear, but it was one of the numerous works of art, including over 6,500 paintings, that were recovered from a salt mine near the Austrian town of Altaussee. This mine was used as a storage facility by the Nazis, and the sculpture was brought back to Belgium from here once again.
10. The discovery of the Madonna of Bruges was featured in a Hollywood movie
The recovery of the pieces of art from the Altaussee salt mine was featured in a 2014 Hollywood movie named “The Monuments Men” and features George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin, and Cate Blanchett.
It tells the story of how about 400 service members and civilians led an operation between 1943 and 1946 to recover the vast amounts of art stolen by the Nazis. The discovery at Altaussee was one of the major achievements of this operation and allowed the sculpture to return home safely to Bruges where it had been located for multiple centuries!