Michelangelo’s fingerprint possibly found on 500-year-old sculpture

Michelangelo’s fingerprint possibly found on 500-year-old sculpture
·2 min read

A fingerprint of the legendary artist Michelangelo may have survived on a 500-year-old wax model.

The discovery was announced on the season two premiere of the BBC documentary Secrets of the Museum, which premiered Tuesday. The 7-inch tall wax model, which was created around 1516 and dubbed A Slave, is housed in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, known as the V&A.

“This Michelangelo model, made as a template for a much larger sculpture, is one of the greatest treasures of the V&A,” reads the description for the episode.


The model was a precursor to a planned life-sized sculpture that would be presented near the tomb of Pope Julius II, according to the museum’s description. The tomb was reduced from its originally planned size, however, so the sculpture was never produced.

Julius II was a top patron of Michelangelo, whose seldom-used surname was Buonarotti, during the Renaissance in the early 1500s. He was responsible for building the new St. Peter’s Basilica, for which he commissioned Michelangelo to design the dome and paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The fingerprint, located on the subject’s backside, was discovered when museum staff moved the model from its regular place in the gallery to a colder storage area.

The next step is for museum researchers to compare the print to a known Michaelangelo smudge on the terra cotta sculpture Two Wrestlers, created around 1530 and housed in Florence’s Casa Buonarotti Museum.

Michelangelo often destroyed preparatory works like A Slave once the actual sculpture was finished, but many of his contemporaries saw creative value in the models, leading them to preserve the wax figures. One such contemporary was Giorgi Vasari.

The artist would create the preliminary models much like he would the finished products “in the same way figures must be carved out of marble by the chisel, [with] the parts in highest relief … revealed first and then little by little the lower parts,” Vasari wrote in his Lives of the Artists.


The effort Michelangelo put into the models has led many curators to see them as works of fine art.

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Tags: News, BBC, England, Museums, Italy, Florence, Art, Art History, Arts

Original Author: Charles Hilu

Original Location: Michelangelo’s fingerprint possibly found on 500-year-old sculpture

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