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On Michelangelo Sculpture, a Possible 'Direct Connection'

Museum staff find what may be the artist's fingerprint on wax model
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2021 9:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – A big find on a Michelangelo sculpture suggests the artist may have left something important behind on his work. Per the London Times, one of the butt cheeks on Michelangelo's "A Slave"—a wax statue said to have been used as a model for a never-completed marble sculpture for Pope Julius II's tomb, commissioned 500 years ago—has a fingerprint (or thumbprint) on it, and experts at London's Victoria and Albert Museum think it may belong to Michelangelo himself. The discovery of the print, which was made during the filming of the BBC series Secrets of the Museum, came about after curators moved the sculpture during the warmer weather months last year from an upper gallery into a cooler basement storage area, so that the wax wouldn't be compromised and "start sweating," per chief curator Peta Motture. Five months later, when they examined the statue, they spotted the print.

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They think it emerged due to changes in temperature and humidity when the statue was moved into storage, jump-starting a chemical alteration, per the Smithsonian. "It is where mind and hand somehow come together," Motture tells the BBC. "A fingerprint would be a direct connection with the artist." Motture adds that what makes the find doubly exciting is that many of the wax models used by Michelangelo were destroyed when he was done with his projects. "It was never intended to last, that's what is quite charming and quite remarkable about it," another V&A curator tells the Telegraph. The paper notes that it almost didn't make it: Nearly a century ago, a patron knocked the statue over, shattering much of it. Experts meticulously put it back together. Further analysis—including comparison to a previously discovered Michelangelo print on a different work—is planned to try to confirm its origin. (Read more Michelangelo stories.)

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