Renaissance ‘whodunnit’ uncovers new Michelangelo sculptures

Naked men riding panthers: what more could you want?

Art Fitzwilliam Museum Michelangelo

Michelangelo is undoubtedly one of the world’s famous artists. Perhaps known best for the astonishing ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the triumphant statue of David, this week sees the apparent rediscovery of two additional works.

The Rothschild Bronzes, which belong to a private British owner, have been the subject of a long-term project at the Fitzwilliam Museum to determine whether or not they are the product of the great Italian Master. After much deliberation, it was announced this morning that they are believed to be so.

Like this but not

The metre-high sculptures have an undeniable air of triumph: two athletic, naked men ride a pair of fierce panthers, each with a fist in the air. Victoria Avery, keeper of applied arts at the Fitzwilliam, said, “They are clearly masterpieces. The modelling is superb, they are so powerful and so compelling, so whoever made them had to be superb.”

Academics from Cambridge, alongside international researchers, have drawn the conclusion based on anatomical and art historical evidence. Paul Joannides, Emeritus Professor of the faculty of art history, connected the bronzes to a detail in a 16th Century drawing in France.

They had previously been attributed to the Dutch sculptor Willem Danielsz Van Tetrode. Initially believed to be by Michelangelo, this theory was dismissed in the 19th century. If the new attribution is correct, they would be the only remaining bronze pieces by Michelangelo in the world.

He was quite good at the whole ‘art’ thing

Avery described the process as “a Renaissance whodunnit”. Despite the caution they had to take, she added that, “It has been a huge privilege to be involved, very exciting and great fun.”

They will be displayed at the Fitzwilliam from tomorrow until the beginning of August. A book will be published about the discovery, and further research will be presented at a conference in July.

In art historical terms, this news is huge. For everyone else, it’s still quite cool.