from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In Italian art, painting or sculpture, a composition which represents the Madonna seated and bearing in her arms or on her knees the dead body of Christ. The most famous example is the Pietà of Michelangelo in the Capella della Febbre at St. Peter's, Rome.


  • That laugh line haunts the play's stunning final image, as Maria -- clad now in black and crimson -- holds her martyred Tony's body pieta-style before seizing the Shark gun that killed him and turning on the other gangsters like a raging nemesis.

    Albert Williams, ‘Original Glory: West Side Story,’ Chicago Reader, February 8, 1996

  • Her voice (giddy or quivering), her gestures (ebullient or devastated), her posture (vertical, expansive as in 'I Love New York!' or slumped like an urban pieta) describe the volcanic feelings that develop and finally erupt in her world-weary soul.

    James Scarborough, ‘Stop Kiss, The Garage Theater,’ The Huffington Post, August 3, 2010

  • He warmed towels (he found towels!), he wrapped them about Pons' hands, he laid them over the pit of the stomach; he took the cold, moist forehead in his hands, he summoned back life with a might of will worthy of Apollonius of Tyana, laying kisses on his friend's eyelids like some Mary bending over the dead Christ, in a pieta carved in bas-relief by some great Italian sculptor.

    Cousin Pons, by Honore De Balzac


In Italian, ‘pietà’ means ‘pity, compassion.’