Bronzes of men riding panthers are by Michelangelo, museum says

Sun Feb 1, 2015 7:28pm EST
 
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Two bronze statues of muscular men riding panthers, each a meter (three-feet) high and whose attribution has long been a matter of conjecture, are now thought to be the only surviving bronzes of Michelangelo, the Fitzwilliam Museum said on Monday.

The statues of two men, each holding an arm aloft in a gesture of salute, were attributed to the 16th-century Italian Renaissance artist based in part on a tiny detail from one of his student's drawings, the Fitzwilliam, which is the museum of Cambridge University, said.

It said that last autumn Professor Paul Joannides, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Cambridge, connected the bronzes to a drawing by one of Michelangelo’s apprentices now in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France.

The apprentice's copy of some of Michelangelo's lost sketches includes a composition of a muscular youth riding a panther, which the museum said was very similar in pose to the bronzes.

It was also "drawn in the abrupt, forceful manner that Michelangelo employed in designs for sculpture. This suggests that Michelangelo was working up this very unusual theme for a work in three dimensions."

The bronzes, which have spent over a century in relative obscurity, are now thought to be early works by Michelangelo, the museum said, made just after he completed his marble David as he was about to embark on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

It said the evidence linking the bronzes to Michelangelo would be presented to a conference in July. In the meantime the works would be on display at the Fitzwilliam.

"The bronzes are exceptionally powerful and compelling works of art that deserve close-up study -- we hope the public will come and examine them for themselves, and engage with this ongoing debate," Dr Victoria Avery, Keeper of the Applied Arts Department of the Fitzwilliam Museum, said in a statement.   Continued...