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Michelangelo – A Discovery

Unsigned and undocumented, yet evidently by a great Renaissance master, the Rothschild bronzes were loaned to the Fitzwilliam Museum from summer 2014 until autumn 2015 and became the centre of a major international, interdisciplinary research project led by Dr Victoria Avery (Keeper, Applied Arts) and Professor Paul Joannides (Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Cambridge).

Visual analysis and circumstantial evidence have permitted Vicky and Paul to propose that they are early works by Michelangelo, datable to c. 1506–8. Their conclusions are supported by independent scientific evidence provided by Dr Robert van Langh (Head of Research and Conservation, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam); by independent anatomical evidence from Professor Peter Abrahams (Warwick University’s Medical School); and by historical reconstructions undertaken by sculptor-founder Andrew Lacey (Lacey Foundry, Totnes) with assistance from Propshop (Pinewood Film Studio), Professor Mark Williams and his team (Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick); and the Engineering Department at Birmingham University.

The bronzes formed part of a special display at the Museum (February–November 2015), which included a revolutionary 3D anatomical video with 3D labels produced by Prof Abrahams, Dr Richard Tunstall, Mr Brian Burnett and their team (Warwick Medical School and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust). The display was accompanied by a special 83-page publication: A Michelangelo Discovery: The Rothschild bronzes and the case for their proposed attribution.

Further leading Michelangelo scholars contributed to the ‘Michelangelo Discovery Symposium’, which was funded by Cambridge University Press (6 July 2015: Downing College, Cambridge), including Professor William E. Wallace (Washington University in St Louis), Professor David Ekserdjian (University of Leicester), and Dr Eike Schmidt (Director, Uffizi Gallery, Florence).

Research is ongoing, and has been disseminated by Dr Avery at numerous public lectures both at the Museum (see Youtube video) and elsewhere, for example, at Sussex University’s Art History Work in Progress Seminar Series (11 December 2015) and at Cambridge University’s Art History Research Seminars (30 November 2016). 

The final results of the reserach were published in co-authored book by Victoria Avery and Paul Joannides Michelangelo: Sculptor in Bronze (2018)

Project information

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