In most of the images where Mary holds her son, the holding is on the left side (just an impression which remains to be tested, but it would explain the exceptionality of the Dexiokratousa images). So now in early Michelangelo Mary's dead son, with a serene expression of closure after having accomplished his grandiose, masochistic wish to be crucified, is no longer being held by her left arm. The empty left hand seems, then, to be making a sacrificial offering ("offering up," as you suggest). This is in line with the controversial "sacerdotal" theology of Mary as priest which has been around for centuries. I can provide the relevant theological references for anyone who is interested. From a psychological viewpoint, there is much ambivalence in the theology, which has no basis whatsoever in canonical scripture (unlike the grandiose masochism of the son), and is filled with misogynist and infanticidal ideation.
Cheers to the list -
On Sep 19, 2011, at 11:08 AM, Terry Burridge wrote:
I can offer no new insights into Michaelangelo's Pieta, except to say how breathtaking it is. And to be intrigued by Mary's left hand. Open in supplication? Acceptance? Offering up?