Fingerprint found on buttock of A Slave sculpture could finally prove it IS the work of Michelangelo


A cheeky clue to Michelangelo masterpiece? Fingerprint found on buttock of A Slave sculpture could finally prove it IS the work of the Renaissance genius

  • Print was found by experts at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London
  • Was discovered after model was moved to protect if from warm temperatures
  • Is believed print appeared because heat altered chemical composition 

The sculpted buttock of a slave bears a fingerprint which could confirm the model was produced by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.

Experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum found a thumb and fingerprint on the small wax figure, A Slave, after it was moved to protect it from warm temperatures last spring. 

The model, which experts have long believed was created by Michelangelo, was put into cold storage in the museum’s basement before being examined. 

It is thought the print appeared because a change in temperature or humidity altered the chemical composition of the wax. 

The sculpted buttock of a slave bears a fingerprint which could confirm the model was produced by Renaissance artist Michelangelo. Experts at the Victoria and Albert Museum found a thumb and fingerprint on the small wax figure, A Slave, after it was moved to protect it from warm temperatures last spring

It is hoped that the discovery will help put to bed question marks over the authenticity of the model.

The find was made during filming for the BBC series Secrets of the Museum, which begins next week.

Peta Motture, a senior curator at the London-based museum told The Radio Times that the find was ‘very exciting’.

‘When you are dealing with malleable materials like wax and clay you quite often find fingerprints of the artist. It is like a direct connection with them,’ she added.

The wax slave figure is believed to have been made by Michelangelo during work to produce a marble sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II, who died in 1513. The sculpture (pictured), Young Slave, was never finished and now stands in the Galleria dell'Accademia, in Florence, Italy

The wax slave figure is believed to have been made by Michelangelo during work to produce a marble sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II, who died in 1513. The sculpture (pictured), Young Slave, was never finished and now stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia, in Florence, Italy

Another sculpture made by Michelangelo, which is held in Italy, also contains his thumb or fingerprint. 

Motture said the experts would be taking a ‘much closer look’ at the new discovery to ‘map exactly what is there’.

The wax slave figure is believed to have been made by Michelangelo during work to produce a marble sculpture for the tomb of Pope Julius II, who died in 1513.

The sculpture, Young Slave, was never finished and now stands in the Galleria dell’Accademia, in Florence, Italy.  

Michelangelo is known to have destroyed many of his sketches and models, making the slave a rare survivor. 

The artist died in in Rome in 1564 at the age of 88.   

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE RENAISSANCE MASTER MICHELANGELO? 

Michelangelo Buonarroti, who lived from 1475 to 1564, was the first artist recognised by contemporaries as a genius, according to the National Gallery in London.

He was a painter, on panel and in fresco, as well as a sculptor, architect and writer of sonnets.

He was the only artist of whom it was claimed in his lifetime that he surpassed Antiquity.

Michelangelo Buonarroti, who lived from 1475 to 1564, was the first artist recognised by contemporaries as a genius, according to the National Gallery in London

Michelangelo Buonarroti, who lived from 1475 to 1564, was the first artist recognised by contemporaries as a genius, according to the National Gallery in London

He was born in Caprese in the 1470s and trained first as a painter with Ghirlandaio, and then as a sculptor under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici.

In 1496, already known as sculptor, he went to Rome, where he carved the ‘Pietà’ for St Peter’s.

Back in Florence in 1501 he began work on many sculptural and painterly projects most of which were left unfinished.

In 1505. he was summoned to Rome to begin work on a sculpted tomb for Pope Julius II, a project that dogged him until 1545.

From 1508 to 1512 he painted the vault of the Sistine Chapel with scenes from the Old Testament, from the Creation to the Story of Noah.

Immediately celebrated, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, with its innumerable figures in complex, twisting poses and its exuberant use of colour, is the chief source of the Mannerist style.

Although he always considered himself a Florentine, Michelangelo lived most of his life in Rome, where he died at age 88.

 

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