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Bronze Sculptures By Michelangelo?

Byline: Aarathi

In the 19th century, Baron Adolphe de Rothschild's art collection contained several exquisite pieces, including two beautiful bronze statues.

Standing a metre tall, each was of a muscular athletic man riding a panther.

Initially, experts suggested they could have been created by Michelangelo, the famous Renaissance artist from Italy. However, there was no supporting documentation or signature and the bronzes were thought to be by other sculptors.

Last autumn however, Prof Paul Joannides from the University of Cambridge found a sketch similar to the statues in a series of drawings by one of Michelangelo's students. Putting this together with other evidence, it does indeed seem that the two aRothschild bronzes' are the only surviving works by the great artist in bronze.

"The Divine One"

Michelangelo is considered to be one of the most prominent icons of the Renaissance period that swept across Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries.

Born in Italy in 1475, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni was the second of five sons. At that time, his family was in Caprese, but they soon moved to Florence, which was one of the largest hubs for creative arts in that period. The young boy spent hours in the company of prominent painters and in sketching, rather than in studies. Seeing his interest, his father apprenticed him to the famous painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, who ran one of the largest workshops in Florence.

Michelangelo, as one of the best students there, was soon given the chance to become a part of the household of Lorenzo the Magnificient, who was the patriarch of the Medici family. As the de facto ruler of Florence, Lorenzo was also a great patron of the arts. Michelangelo's interactions with other painters, sculptors, poets, scholars and other learned men served to mold his unique style of workmanship which marked his entire career.

Some of his well known works include "Pieta", a marble sculpture of Mary holding Jesus's body which he carved when just 25 years old. "David" is another work in marble, a 17 feet tall commission that had been abandoned by two previous artists. His painting of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican is perhaps his most famous creation. It took Michelangelo four years of painstaking work to complete it.

Much later in life, he also painted a fresco of "The Last Judgement" on the altar wall in the same chapel. He was also the principal architect behind the rebuilding of St.Peter's Basilica in Rome. Much of the building we see today are part of his original design.

His Attempts In Bronze

Michelangelo was known to have experimented in bronze but nothing existed of any of his works. In fact, one statue of Pope Julius II was melted down within 3 years of when he completed it. Another of David disappeared during the French Revolution.

However, Michelangelo's other sculptures showed great attention to detail -- most of his work reveals near-perfect depictions of the human body. To Prof. Paul Joannides, the two Rothschild bronzes appeared to reflect his unique style very closely indeed.

A neutron scan of the bronzes discovered that they had been made in the first decade of the 16th Century. This indicates Michelangelo must have worked on them in between completing David and starting work on the Sistine Chapel. The statues are not identical -- although both appear athletic, one man is younger and is positioned slightly different compared to the other. However, the style of the bronzes are very similar to sketches made by his student which in turn were based on works by the master himself.

Currently, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is playing host to the bronzes. The results of ongoing studies to further verify the true artist will be formally announced in July.

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Title Annotation:Society/Arts; Rothschild Bronzes
Article Type:Biography
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Feb 16, 2015
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