Record visitors for Michelangelo's Pieta Rondanini

The new gallery in Castello Sforzesco open free of charge until 31 May.

The new gallery dedicated to Michelangelo's last masterpiece the Rondanini Pietà is in the restored Spanish hospital in Castello Sforzesco, so called because it was used for the Spanish garrison stationed in Milan in the mid 16th century.

The unfinished statue shows the mourning Virgin supporting the figure of Christ, although from the back it appears that it is Christ who is holding the Virgin on his back. This unpolished statue, with all the chisel marks still evident, is a long cry from the shining marble Pietà of Michelangelo's youth in St Peter's Basilica.

The new gallery in Castello Sforzesco before restoration.
The new gallery in Castello Sforzesco before restoration.

It is thought that Michelangelo was working on the sculpture right up until his death in 1564. All trace of it was then lost for over a century and it was eventually bought by Giovanni Rondanini and remained in his family collection in Rome on Via del Corso until the beginning of the 20th century. It was bought by the city of Milan in 1952 and added to the city's collection in Castello Sforzesco. However this is the first time that the masterpiece has been allocated its own gallery space.

On the first eight days after its opening on 2 May it was visited by over 8,000 people.