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Kiki Smith (1954-)






Ink and graphite pencil on paper


Sheet (Irregular): 55 1/4 × 30 5/16 in. (140.3 × 77 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Drawing Committee

Accession number


Object Label

Pietà reveals Kiki Smith’s continuing interest in self-portraiture, mythological and religious themes, and her deep connection with animals. The drawing, a self-portrait of the artist holding her dead cat Ginzer, is a private devotional image that reveals a painful personal loss. Smith looks down sadly at the cat, whose eyes are open and head is turned away from her. The cat’s paws are extended in a gesture that reflects its last struggle for life. Smith drew Pietà on several sheets of thin, slightly crinkled Nepalese paper, which emphasizes the vulnerability and pain of both the woman and the cat. Taken from an Italian word for pity, piety, or devotion, Smith's title recalls Michelangelo’s sculpture, Pietà (c. 1498-99) in which Mary grieves over the death of Christ, whom she holds in her lap.

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