Actor Charlton Heston portrays artist Michelangelo in this scene from the 1965 film The Agony And The Ecstasy
Actor Charlton Heston portrays artist Michelangelo in this scene from the 1965 film The Agony And The Ecstasy

Michelangelo found in student digs

By TAMARA COHEN Time of article published Jul 18, 2011

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London - A painting which has been hanging in a student hall of residence at Oxford since the 1930s could be a Michelangelo masterpiece worth up to £100-million.

The mid-16th century work depicting the crucifixion of Jesus was believed to be by one of the Renaissance artist’s contemporaries, Marcello Venusti.

But Italian scholar Antonio Forcellino claims that infra-red technology revealed the 12-inch by 27-inch work to have been actually painted by Michelangelo himself. “No one but Michelangelo could have painted such a masterpiece,” Mr Forcellino wrote in his book The Lost Michelangelos.

Only a handful of Michelangelo paintings exist which are confirmed as authentic, and all are in museums. If the one discovered at Oxford’s Campion Hall is authenticated and put on the market, it could beat the £70-million record price for a work of art sold at auction set by a Picasso last year.

Clare Dewey of Axa art insurance said: “To say Michelangelos don’t come on the market very often would be an understatement. A tiny drawing by the artist sells for millions, so that puts into context how much a painting would fetch if you could prove it is genuine.

“It could easily be the most expensive painting ever sold. It could even break £100-million if experts believe it is real.”

The painting, Crucifixion With The Madonna, St John and Two Mourning Angels, was bought by Campion Hall at Sotheby’s for an undisclosed sum in the 1930s. It had been hanging on a wall at the Jesuit academic community ever since.

Michelangelo expert Professor William Wallace, of Washington University in the US, said: “The interesting thing is that Forcellino believes it is genuine and he is a reputable scholar.

“We are never going to be totally sure if it is genuine as Michelangelo’s contemporaries would paint designs that he drew and it is down to the academic community to assess it.

“It’s not a totally gorgeous object but it’s extremely important in telling us about the taste of the time.” The work has now been sent to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for safekeeping and will go in display in Milan and Rome this autumn.

Father Brendan Callaghan, Master of Campion Hall, said he was “excited and concerned” that it could be a Michelangelo and it would be sold for charity if it was.

He added: “It’s a very beautiful piece, but far too valuable to have on our wall any more.

“Its value in the three years I’ve been master has gone up tenfold, even if it’s not by Michelangelo. No doubt the art historians will argue the points to and fro. If it is a genuine Michelangelo then it is worth millions.”

Some experts argue that the painting dates from towards the end of Michelangelo’s life when his eyesight was failing, so is more likely to be a Venusti.

But Father Callaghan said: “One of the reasons I am happy for it to go on display in so many places is to allow a number of historians and experts to look at, and argue, over it.” - Daily Mail

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