In 1930, a Spanish historian suggested a sculpture of St. John the Baptist was the work of Michelangelo—a long-lost piece said to have been created in the late 15th century. Since then, nearly every expert has dismissed the theory, and the statue was shattered into 14 pieces during the Spanish Civil War, the New York Times reports. But at a conference last week, an art scholar once again made the case that the restored sculpture, known as San Giovannino, was in fact the missing Michelangelo, and while its owner seems to believe the case is settled, the debate is once again alive.
"We have a Michelangelo," says Spain's Duke of Segorbe. "This is a dream come true, and the end of a very, very long story." The scholar says the piece bears a likeness to other Michelangelo works, and he offered a possible history of the work: It was inherited by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, who had ties to the Andalusian secretary of the Holy Roman Emperor. Letters show that the Grand Duke sent a statue to the secretary, Francisco de los Cobos y Molina, and it ended up in the chapel where Cobos was buried—where it remained for centuries. In 1994 it was sent to a Florentine preservation institute that has painstakingly worked to reconstruct it, in a process that took close to two decades. The Times has a photo of the piece.